28 July 2016

Direct Debit - Council Tax - Capita - what a whopper

Mr Mustard decided to take up the entitlement to pay his Council Tax bill by 12 instalments instead of 10. Thank you Uncle Eric (Pickles).

He emailed the council tax department of Barnet Council, which is contracted out to Capita, on 12 April. I wish to pay my council tax by 12 instalments. I have today paid £128.65 Notification of the payment amount was so that the council could calculate the correct balance.

He received the following reply on 16 May 2016 (another month having already passed!)

Thank you for your email dated 12 April 2016.

I note you are requesting to pay your council tax over 12 instalments, the 12 monthly payments is only available if you are paying your tax via direct debit.*

With regards to payment by direct debit kindly visit this link where a form can be downloaded and completed or contact the office to set the direct debit over the phone on 0208 359 2608.

Please do not hesitate to contact the Office on the above telephone number if you have any queries.

Yours sincerely

Name Redacted by Mr Mustard
Local Taxation Officer
Barnet Council

Mr Mustard did have a query which was that he had read the guidance about paying by 12 instalments and he knew that it could not be linked to the method of payment. He queried the requirement for direct debit (Mr Mustard can't find this email, it's probably in a PCN file somewhere). Answer came there none but a revised council tax bill spread over 12 months did arrive.

Mr Mustard emailed again on 19 July.

You have now sent me a revised council tax bill spread over 12 instalments but not answered the email I sent before that asking which law required me to pay by direct debit or if this was a council regulation or one of Capita's.

I would still like an answer please.

Thank you

This time, Capita knew the game was up and remaining silent was not an option. He received the following frank reply on 26 July.

I write to advise that the email of 16 May 2016 from name redacted is not correct and apologise for the error. Payment of Council Tax can be spread over 12 months from April to March and there is no requirement for that to be paid by direct debit. Please accept my apology for this error.


Mr N xxxxxx

Barnet Council Tax

Well done Mr N xxxxxx.

So now we know a trick that Capita play (surely they didn't only try it out on Mr Mustard?) on unsuspecting (not Mr M!) council tax payers. they tell them a whopper of a lie so that they collect earlier. If you were told the same untruth please do let Mr Mustard know (email mrmustard@zoho.com)

Mr Mustard urges all council tax payers not to pay by direct debit as why would you give someone else the ability to take money out of your bank account when they want, you should control it.

Mr Mustard further suggests that if you currently pay by 10 instalments that you ask to switch to 12 to even out your monthly finances. Just email local.taxation@barnet.gov.uk and ask in the same simple terms as Mr Mustard did. Remember to quote your council tax reference and/or the property address.

What other whoppers are Capita telling people?

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

* The whopper 

3 August 2016: An explanation arrives. A one-off error, just as luck would have it to one of Barnet's bloggers.

Prior to the change in legislation enabling customers to request payment over 12 months we did encourage direct debit take up by allowing 12 instalments, This I believe is an isolated case and has been addressed with the staff member and further re-iterated to all staff.

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