to return to
Blowing the whistle
on A Really Rotten Borough
latest update 12 March 2010

Wednesday, 28 June 2006

Debt team called in on £5m payout blunder

Liverpool Echo

DEBT collectors are to be used to claw back up to £5m of housing benefit wrongly paid to Wirral residents.

A new report into Wirral council finances says the council was still trying to retrieve £4,931,042 because of the blunders.

Some families who were not even aware they were receiving more than they should are now being warned of the consequences of not paying it back.

In 2001, overpayments cost the council £310,312, while in 2002 that amount rose to £541,296.
But the problem has worsened every year and from April 2005 to March 2006 the council overpaid £1.55m in housing benefits.

Wirral council says its problem is in common with otherl authorities.

In a report, director of finance Ian Coleman said: "Every effort is made to recover overpaid housing benefit as soon as it is identified.

"If the claimant retains entitlement to benefit then any over payment is recovered from their ongoing entitlement.

"However, if there is no current entitlement, the debt is invoiced.

"If payment is not received, the invoice is followed by a reminder and final demand.

"If at this point there is still no payment, the debt is referred to the collection agents for collection."