Saturday, 12 January 2008

Computer says no

It absolutely beggars belief that nearly £1m has been taken out of people's accounts for council tax and council rent by mistake.

Over the last month, double payments were being taken by Hull City Council, hitting 9,500 people. This forced some to borrow money from loved ones to feed their families at Xmas and penalised some with £25 bank changes for going overdrawn

Not only was this not picked up for two weeks but it's now going to take up to five days for the council to pay the money back.

The council promised hardship loans for those needing emergency money. But we're already hearing stories of people being turned away because they couldn't prove the money had been taken. Surely the council should be able to check their OWN computer records to see if extra payments had been taken?

But no - they admit they don't know exactly how many people have been affected!
All the while that money has been sitting in the council's bank account earning interest.

Councillor Sean Chaytor is absolutely right this morning to be calling for a full investigation into this mess. The council should be working round the clock to pay everything back - including that interest and where relevant, the bank charges.

The Lib Dems are already spinning that it was a computer error, a software problem. But the buck stops with the cabinet member for finance - a certain C Minns.

This just adds to a picture of Lib Dem council incompetence.

They're already facing legal action from a company that claims they went back on a deal to bring a Big Wheel over to Hull for Christmas and cabinet member for regeneration Andy Sloan resigned days before this story broke to spend more time with his PHD!

Even the Hull Daily Mail is quoting Lib Dems sources saying there's a distinct lack of leadership.

But I hear that's all small fry compared to a story of such gross incompetence that's about to break.

The challenge now for Labour is to listen to the people and formulate a positive agenda for change that this city so desperately needs. It's a challenge that the Labour group, ably led by Steve Brady, is rising too.

So that come May we can log off the Lib Dems once and for all.

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