22/12/2020 - Permalink

Contractor sends letter in error to over 2,500 residents

Related topics: Finance and budget / Partner organisations

Bristow and Sutor, the bailiff company contracted by Shropshire Council, has apologised for sending a letter in error to 2,622 Shropshire residents, informing them that they will be attending their homes to remove goods within seven days, in payment for unpaid council tax.

The company was supposed to send a letter advising that the council has obtained a liability order to collect outstanding council tax, which it did in November. This is the very start of the process and the initial letter should have asked for people’s income, expenditure and employment details within 14 days, enabling them to make an arrangement or pay back any money owed through their wages.

There are a number of stages in the process, and the threat of a bailiff visit would be the very last resort.

Peter Nutting, Leader of Shropshire Council, said:

“Due to this serious oversight, we have asked Bristow and Sutor to suspend further activities whilst an investigation is undertaken. We have also asked that the company send another letter, reassuring residents and informing them of their error.

“This kind of mistake is unacceptable at any time, but during a pandemic and at Christmas, when families have been hit hard in so many ways, it is beyond belief.

“While the error was not due to anything the council did, we would like to apologise for the issues and any undue stress this has caused.

“By way of an apology, I have asked that the company make a donation to my chosen charity, Shrewsbury Town in the Community, and I’m pleased to say that they have donated £250 that will benefit people across Shropshire.

“Please know, if you require financial assistance, there are lots of places you can go for independent advice and guidance. We also have a Local Support and Prevention Fund (LSPF) which exists to help vulnerable people who are facing crisis.”

Andy Rose, Bristow and Sutor’s chief executive officer, said:

“Unfortunately, I have established that our system produced and issued an incorrect letter to some Shropshire customers, giving the wrong message and causing great anxiety as to their situation. This is entirely our fault and we have apologised to Shropshire Council, and we are in the process of issuing immediate apologies to all those who have received the wrong letter. This error is not representative of the professional standards we set and an internal investigation is taking place to identify the root cause and ensure there is no repetition.”

If anyone finds themselves in immediate financial hardship during the Christmas period, they can call the Local Support and Prevention Fund on 0345 678 9078.