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Council letter asks deceased woman why she hasn't paid
A GRIEVING son was left outraged when he received an "insensitive and inappropriate" letter from a council addressed to his deceased mother - advising her that she had not paid her council tax because she was dead.
Adrian Gillett lost his mother, Beryl, from central High Wycombe on August 23, aged 92. But Wycombe District Council still wrote to his mother saying her bank had been unable to pay her instalment for council tax which was requested by direct debit on September 10.
It then said: "the reason they have given for this non-payment is Payer Deceased. If you believe this is incorrect please contact your bank for further details."
It then goes on to ask for payment.
Mr Gillett, 55, from Handleton Common in Lane End said: "I got the letter and realised it was addressed to my mother at her address. I opened it and read it with a sense of incongruality. I could not believe someone could send a letter like that."
"People don't think how upsetting a letter like that can be. It should be dealt with in a much better way."
He said he phoned the council who said they had it on record that his mother had died, but they were unable to tell him why it had got through the screening process.
When he was registering her death, the coroner's office offered a death notification service called 'Tell Us Once', which informs specific organisations such as council tax and DVLA.
He was told he may still receive post but he said he did not expect a letter like that. He added: "If these things and type of things are going to people it should be stopped."
Mrs Gillett had been a High Wycombe resident all her life. She was well known by her maiden name, Tranter, as the family had a greengrocers in the town for 60 years until it closed in the 70s.
Mr Gillett also continued to receive letters from RAC saying sorry you have left us, after he cancelled his mother's membership.
Spokesman for WDC, Catherine Spalton, said: "We sincerely apologise for any distress that this letter may have caused Mrs Gillett’s family.
"We are obliged to notify local residents about any unpaid council tax direct debits, to ensure that we can recover the amount if appropriate. We are usually notified by banks that a direct debit has been unpaid. We then send a letter to follow this up - sometimes the reasons cited by the bank do not prove to be correct - which is generated by our automated system. This is usually a very efficient process and very rarely causes any problems or issues.
"Sadly, in this instance, we had not received notification through the "tell us once" system that Mrs Gillett had passed away before our system generated automatically generated the letter that was sent out. Had our records been updated, then of course the letter would have been addressed differently."
RAC also apologised for the error and said: "We have ensured Mr Gillett's late mother's name has been removed from our database and we will be writing to apologise for the upset this no doubt caused."
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