May 25 2013 Latest news:
Ramzy Alwakeel, Reporter
Tuesday, June 26, 2012
Havering Council was forced to pay £8,000 in bank charges so it could refund more than 2,500 people for money taken in error.
The blunder occurred in February last year and came to light while the Recorder was investigating a similar incident in which a “systems fault” took payments from 1,000 people without warning last month.
A council spokesman said the two incidents were “totally separate”.
Following the discovery of its mistake, the council wrote to all 2,671 people involved and apologised. The bank charges were incurred because the council wanted to refund people immediately without waiting for the usual three-day period for payments to clear.
Councillor Michael Armstrong, cabinet member for customer services, said: “These direct debit costs were immediately repaid and we apologised to everyone affected. We did have to pay around £8,000 in early repayment charges but needed to correct our mistake to prevent any of our residents being out of pocket.”
Debbie McNess of Gooshays Drive, Harold Hill, had £161 taken out of her account in the most recent incident – and said it didn’t surprise her the council had made similar mistakes before.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if they’d done it more than twice,” she said. “It’s disgusting – it’s not good because in this day and age people haven’t got a lot of money.
“They paid me back pretty quickly but within a week they sent a letter saying they wanted the money back within 10 days.
“Ten days isn’t enough. My husband doesn’t get paid until next month and I only get child tax credit weekly, which doesn’t even cover our food bills.”
If your money has been taken and you want a penalty paid or need financial assistance, call 01708 434343.