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Council phonelines overwhelmed as unpaid tax summonses go out in Brighton and Hove
Thousands of people summonsed over unpaid council tax are struggling to settle their debts because Brighton and Hove City Council phonelines are jammed.
More than 2,700 people received summonses from the council in the last month.
But some say they have been unable to pay because there is no answer on the council’s phonelines.
The council said nearly 5,000 calls to its council tax lines were answered in January.
It expects the rush to continue and is recruiting extra staff to help.
In the month leading up to last Friday, 3,395 reminders were issued to people who had outstanding payments.
The reminders advised people to contact the council, or face a court appearance.
The council issued 2,758 sum- monses for non-payment in the same period.
Managers recruited four extra staff to cope with a high number of phonecalls, increasing the size of the team to ten.
And yet more staff are being recruited ready for next week.
But some taxpayers have reported waiting up to an hour with no reply.
The council said part of the problem was that it had also written to benefits claimants advising them to call for more information about the abolition of some benefits in April.
One 47-year-old taxpayer from Brighton, who asked not to be named, contacted The Argus saying he had received a reminder to pay his tax at the end of January – but had been unable to get through on the council number.
He said: “I’ve been on hold for an hour and nobody answers.
“I’ve emailed, I’ve asked them to call me back [and nobody has].
“I should imagine thousands of people are getting summonses if this is the case.”
The council apologised to people for the delays.
It claimed the number of summonses it issues has fallen from 24,000 in 2009 to 14,000 for 2012.
A council spokesman said he hoped the issue would be resolved next week.
He said: “We are sorry to hear that people have had difficulty getting through on our telephone lines. It is really important to us that we deliver a high quality service.
“We are tracking the situation closely as we are experiencing high demand on some days but it is fluctuating considerably.
"We have been recruiting extra staff in anticipation of higher volumes of inquiries.”