Payment system error comes just months after the pair signed a new 10-year deal
Liberata is to reimburse Hounslow residents who have been charged as a result of early council tax collection – Photo credit: Fotolia
The London Borough of Hounslow and its IT supplier Liberata have been forced to apologise after an error in the council’s systems collected council tax from some 32,000 residents four days early.
Residents who pay by their council tax by direct debit usually see the money collected on the first of the month – when this falls on a weekend or holiday it should be after the due date.
However, over the recent early May bank holiday weekend, the money was collected on 28 April, instead of 2 May – the day after the bank holiday Monday – meaning some residents were not prepared, and did not have had sufficient funds in their accounts.
A council spokeswoman told PublicTechnology that 31,959 were residents affected, and that the incident was the result of “an administrative error with Liberata’s payment system”, which was being investigated.
Council leader Steve Curran said that only a single payment was taken, and that the next would be taken on 1 June 2017, but that the council realised that the error “may have resulted in inconvenience and in some cases possibly direct financial loss” for residents.
He said those people would be reimbursed for bank charges incurred, and that the council was contacting affected residents directly. However, he added that they could also contact the council’s customer experience team and “Liberata will then arrange for the money to be reimbursed”.
Curran added that the matter had been “escalated to senior officers within Liberata and the council, and measures are being implemented immediately to ensure that this doesn’t happen again”.
In addition, he said, the council’s director of finance has requested assurance over the early payment “and other related business processes” from an independent source, which he said the council’s head of audit and investigations is advising on this.
The council, which has worked with Liberata since 2005, recently signed a new 10-year contract with the company that is worth a potential £75m.
The contract is for provision of revenues and benefits assessments, transactional finance and post and print services, as well as its existing work on administration of council tax and business rate collection for the council.
At the time of the announcement, Liberata said that it had achieved a “high percentage of council tax and business rate collection rates that are in the upper quartile percentage rate for London with significant reductions in historic arrears” for the council.
This article was updated at 3.30pm on 11 May after the council responded to a request from PublicTechnology about how many residents were affected by the error.