Council tax mistake isn’t an argument against privatisation

In the media today, a trade union leader makes the claim that Barnet’s recent council tax mistake is an argument against outsourcing the revenue and benefits service. This seems to me to be a curious position to take.

Last Friday, about 2,500 residents had their monthly council tax payments debited twice. I make no excuse for this, it is unacceptable. But this slip-up was caused by human error. A council officer made a mistake and whilst this is obviously regrettable it has nothing to do with outsourcing or privatisation. A private sector company is no more likely to suffer from human error than the council.

What is important is how quickly an organisation responds to mistakes. My colleague Councillor Daniel Thomas informs me that the council began the process of reimbursing residents within an hour of the error being made. When a private sector organisation runs council tax collection it is essential that their contract stipulates a similarly speedy response time.


7 Responses to Council tax mistake isn’t an argument against privatisation

  1. Mrs Angry says:

    Your last sentence assumes that private sector organisations in Barnet always have a contract in the first place, but that is not always the case, is it, as we have recently discovered?

  2. robertrams says:


    You will be pleased to know that there is a skilled One Barnet team in place to make sure all the contracts are watertight.

  3. Mrs Angry says:

    Sorry to disagree, but clearly whatever skilled One Barnet team is in place failed to notice that MetPro were not under any contract agreement, until this was brought to your attention by the efforts of myself, and fellow bloggers and journalists. This is a very serious oversight and frankly beyond comprehension.

  4. robertrams says:


    As you are aware the Audit Committee is looking in to this – but I was not aware that my One Barnet team was in charge of the Met Pro contract! One Barnet contracts will be water tight.

    Roger asks me to send his best!

  5. ba4ps says:

    One of the problems with contracts is what happens when the unexpected arises? You end up in endless haggling over whose responsbility it is to fix it. (The lawyers love it.) When services are in-house, the problem gets fixed, no arguments.

  6. mr mustard says:

    Never mind when they started refunding; have they finished yet ?

  7. robertrams says:

    I understand that everyone who was overcharged on Friday 15 April received a refund by Tuesday 19 April.

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