A Luton Councillor has taken the unusual step of advising residents to cancel Direct Debits to the Council if they are likely to face any difficulty in meeting Council Tax payments.
The call follows concern over the introduction of £12 Failed Direct Debit Fees by the Council last year, and a proposed extension of further £12 charges to an estimated 6,000 people likely to want to make an arrangement to pay in further instalments through the year.
The controversial failed Direct Debit charges – levied on top of those charged by banks and building societies – are already estimated to bag the Council £20,000 this year. Because this is not as much as hoped for, the Labour Executive are proposing to agree in January further charges of £12 on an estimated 6,000 residents wanting to make an arrangement to pay.
With the Christmas and New Year period traditionally being one of the toughest times of the year for hard-pressed families, and with only those on benefits likely to be exempt from the new Arrangement Fees, Barnfield and Bushmead Lib Dem Councillor Martin Pantling is urging those who may be hit by the charges to take appropriate action now :
“ Everyone knows December and January are difficult months for families to balance their budget, with many people falling into debt. What many Council Tax payers with Direct Debits won’t know is that for the first time this year, they will be charged £12 by the Council as well as any Fee from their Bank if the money is not there when the Council claim it.”
“ So I would urge residents to assess whether they are likely to have money available on their Direct Debit day, and if not, to cancel the instruction with their Bank in good time to avoid being hit by the Council’s Scrooge-like approach just after Christmas.”
“ Standing Orders and electronic payments are still accepted by the Council even though they choose not to widely advertise them, and these routes avoid Failed Direct Debit Fees.
“ Labour’s plans to impose further £12 charges on those wanting to delay payments by a month also seem misguided, given that residents will have actively approached the Council wishing to make an arrangement to pay. If the Council does welcome the New Year by going down this route, my advice would be to not make an arrangement, but to ensure payments are made within a month if possible. This should minimise the chances of being charged.”