By Tara O’Connor, Local Democracy Reporter
A Croydon widow was told to “shush” when trying to explain why she had not paid her council tax.
This was one of many cases where residents felt they were not listened to when trying to get debt advice from the council.
Debt collection for unpaid council tax bills was also said to be a “serious concern” in the borough, a councillor warned at a cabinet meeting on Tuesday night.
In an update to cabinet, chairwoman of scrutiny, Councillor Rowenna Davis, said: “The chief executive of the Citizen’s Advice Bureau said the number one source of debt enquiries in Croydon wasn’t rent, wasn’t energy but council tax arrears.
“We arranged an online meeting and the testimony was harrowing. We heard it wasn’t possible to have meaningful conversations with the council, that mistakes were made, that there was an ‘enforcement first, check later’ approach, and that all of this was causing huge emotional strain on those who are already vulnerable.
“In one case I won’t forget, a widow trying to explain her situation on the phone was told by an officer to ‘shhh’.”
Councillor Davis went on to say that council officers had listened to the concerns raised by residents at the meeting.
They have brought in changes, including putting translation services in place, as well as creating a list of resources that officers can direct residents to.
A report from the residents’ meeting reads: “There was a concern among all present that this crisis may grow as a result of the cost of living crisis.”
Pictured top: Croydon town hall (Picture: Tara O’Connor)