Tuesday, February 15, 2011

No wonder Councils are now laughing at the LGO

The following case, reported by the Local Government Ombudsman, demonstrates why Councils must now be laughing at them.

"Castle Point Borough Council double charged licensed taxi drivers for Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) checks, finds Local Government Ombudsman, Anne Seex. In her report, issued today (15 February 2011) she says: “This complaint also raises the issue of injustice to every licensed taxi driver who has paid a CRB fee and a licence fee since 1 January 2004, who is likely to have been overcharged.”

‘Mr Hunter’ (not his real name for legal reasons) is a licensed taxi driver. He complained to the Ombudsman because he thought he had been overcharged for his licence since 2004, in particular that he had been charged twice for the Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) check.

In June 2003 the Council decided to charge licensed taxi drivers a separate fee for the CRB check, which had previously been included in the taxi licence fee. In July 2003 the drivers were notified that they would have to pay one fee for their licence and a separate fee for the CRB check.

In December 2003 the Council’s Licensing Committee agreed a percentage increase for licence fares. But the figure on which the percentage increase was based included an amount for the CRB fee which, since July 2003, had been charged separately. And all percentage increases agreed since December 2003 have been based on this baseline figure which wrongly included a CRB fee. This means that since 1 January 2004, when the increase came into account, all licensed drivers who have paid for a CRB check and a licence have been overcharged.

The Ombudsman finds that the Council was at fault for agreeing a fare increase that included an element for a CRB check which the Council had already decided to make a separate charge for. The Council says this was an informed decision to cover the administrative costs of processing the CRB checks; but there is no evidence that this was considered by the Licensing Committee.

The Ombudsman concludes that Mr Hunter, and other taxi drivers who have paid a licence fee since 1 January 2004, have been overcharged.

[Mrs Anne Seex] recommends that the Council: 
  • reimburses Mr Hunter with the amount by which he has been overcharged, and 
  • takes measures to remedy the injustice caused to other taxi drivers who have paid a licence fee and CRB fee since 1 January 2004.  
Report ref no 09 012 990"

(The council can't even argue it was an oversight or unintentional because "The Council says this was an informed decision", therefore it's fraud.)
So we have a Council who defraud a number of taxi drivers for some 7 years and all they have to do is pay the money back? 

Can you imagine if the courts did the same with other fraudsters, "if you are caught, which won't be very often, all you will have to do is pay the money back"! 

No wonder Councils are now laughing at the LGO. 

PS  I have been for years!

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