TOWN hall chiefs have been criticised after an external administrative error resulted in thousands of council tax bills being issued twice, causing confusion for taxpayers.
Residents across Darlington have received their 2014/15 council tax bill in recent weeks, with the amount charged for council services up by 1.9 per cent – the highest increase Darlington Borough Council could levy without triggering a referendum.
The council said an unspecified number of bills were 'misplaced' by postage and packaging suppliers, so bosses decided to reissue a batch of 6,000 duplicate bills.
It is not clear how the bills went missing, or whether there is an issue over data security.
A council spokeswoman said the authority is ‘working with suppliers to understand what went wrong’.
The council has apologised for the inconvenience, amid criticism from residents and low tax pressure group the TaxPayers’ Alliance.
Jonathan Isaby, chief executive of the TaxPayers' Alliance, said: “This mess will cause confusion and waste taxpayers’ money.
“This bungling is particularly galling given the cynical decision to hike council tax while dodging a referendum.
“Council leaders should focus on cutting waste and cutting council tax and this is a prime example of where they should start.”
A Darlington council tax payer, who did not want to be named, said: “We received two bills within days of one another, both identical, apart from having different typefaces for some reason.
“Out of an abundance of caution, I sent an email to the town hall and was assured that, despite receiving two bills, I would only be charged once.
“Accidents happen, but it would be nice to have more confidence that the important matter of council tax billing is in safe hands.
“To lose a load of bills is pretty incompetent, with our bills going up, we are being asked to pay more for the privilege.”
The council spokeswoman added: “Unfortunately, our suppliers of post and packaging misplaced a number of council tax invoices.
“It was very difficult to determine the exact number, so, to ensure our residents received their invoice, we made the decision to re issue a batch of 6,000 invoices.
“This has resulted in a number of residents receiving a duplicate copy of their council tax invoice.
“If you have, there is no need to contact the council.
“We are currently working with our suppliers to understand what went wrong and recover any additional costs that may have been incurred by the council.
“We apologise for any inconvenience caused.”