THE PAYOUT from Stroud District Council over the council tax fiasco at Christmas has cost the taxpayer a total of £11,690.

On December 23 a technical problem with direct debit system for council tax and business rates meant payments were taken from thousands of accounts early by mistake.

This left some families overdrawn and in limbo in the run-up to Christmas Day, with some not having enough money to go shopping or their children out.

Then on December 28, despite attempts to fix the error, another fault in the system meant that payments were taken early again.

Stroud District Council (SDC) said that a total of 20,653 customers were affected by the two errors.

However, only 14 people who were left overdrawn or forced to miss payments replied to the council’s request for reimbursement claims.

This means that only a tiny amount of people who had money taken early asked the council to be compensated, costing the administration only £284.

All these requests have since been processed and paid back.

The largest costs for the mistake came from SDC having to pay the bank for the money to be paid back to residents a day earlier than normal.

This cost the council £4,553 on December 23 and then another £5,175 on January 3.

The cost of posting 5,241 apology letters to effected residents also added to the bill, costing £1,677.

In response to a question over the “debacle” from Conservative councillor Debbie Young at the council’s budget committee meeting on Thursday, the chairman Steve Lydon said an investigation had been carried out.

He confirmed there had been a “full investigation and review”, and that an internal audit review would be carried out at the end of May.

Cllr Lydon added that there is an on-going discussion with the bank about it role in dealing with some customer accounts.

But Cllr Young, (Con, Chalford) called for a further independent review to look into the matter further.

She also said further steps should be taken to ensure the error did not occur again, such as making sure not all staff were off work over the festive period and making more stringent checks were put in place.

In a complex report to councillors, the review found payments scheduled for December 28 were instead taken on December 23.

Then payments scheduled for January 3 were instead taken on December 28.

SDC first became aware of the issue on Friday December 23, after the direct debit payments had already been taken.

The report says: “As it was the last working day before the Christmas bank holidays there were a limited number of options available to mitigate the error.

“On December 23 information about the error was emailed to members, and put on our website.”

The same flaw in the system caused the second error in direct debit payment.

The report also found that the council received over 100 calls to the council tax line in the first week of January.

Sixteen people issued a formal complaint. Another 66 people cancelled their direct debits as a result of the mistake, but 29 of those have since been reinstated.