John McLellan: Me? A new councillor, in council tax arrears?!

Tory councillor John McLellan found the process of establishing he was not actually in arrears to be a tortuous one
Tory councillor John McLellan found the process of establishing he was not actually in arrears to be a tortuous one
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When it was revealed last year that 17 Edinburgh councillors were in arrears with their council tax, which would mean they were barred from voting on the administration’s budget, the City Chambers was agog as to the identity of the naughty boys and girls.

So it was something of a shock when I too received a warning letter last month that we were behind.

Given we’ve never missed a payment in the 25 years we’ve lived here, it would be a bit perverse to default as soon as I became a councillor, so statements were checked, the bank called and sure enough the money had gone out on time.

Then there was a call to the council to see if it had arrived, leading to the spiral about which so many people complain where you can’t find the right option, the answer always seems to be “press one” and human contact avoided at all cost.

Eventually we got through to someone who apparently couldn’t help because it wasn’t 10am.

READ MORE: Unpaid council tax in Edinburgh hits £25m

But finally, finally we established the money had indeed been received and the upshot was that because the money was paid on January 2 for some reason it didn’t register till January 22, five days after the warning was sent.

The notice was withdrawn, but when I probed further to discover how many people find themselves in a similar position it turns out that over 500 council tax arrears letters are issued by mistake each year.

The council says errors are comparatively rare compared to the 250,000 bills issued annually, but putting the wind up 500 people a year shows a promised increased in staff and training can’t come soon enough.

READ MORE: Ian Swanson: Why tax rises and spending cuts are in the post