Council accused of privacy breach

AN ANGRY resident has accused Harborough Council of breaching her privacy over letters which make clear on the envelope that she owes the authority housing benefit overpayment.

The woman, who lives in a village in the north of the district, is also critical of the wording of two letters sent to her in error by the council, which demand payment in full and threaten legal action and the bailiffs.

The resident, who asked not to be named, said she has been paying back the overpayment by monthly standing order for about eight months.

But about six months ago she received a letter from the council saying her money had not been received and demanding the four-figure overpayment be paid back in full.

The words “Housing Benefit Overpayment” could clearly be seen through the window of the envelope showing her name and address.

“I went into the council offices and got it sorted out but there was no apology,” she told the Mail.

“They said they would carry out an investigation into the details showing through the window and later told me that had been remedied.

“But then I got another letter last week which was exactly the same.

“It is a breach of confidentiality. Now my postman and people in the village post office know my business. If this is happening to me then surely it must be happening to other people as well.

“The letter is very threatening and it needs re-wording. I’m strong but there are those out there who are vulnerable and might feel intimidated by it.

“I have tried to fix this but it keeps happening. In the end I felt I had no option but to go to the Mail.”

The woman said she also plans to contact MP Edward Garnier and is considering taking legal action.

The council said: “We have written to the resident in question, and spoken to her, to apologise for what was an administrative error.

“We are currently reviewing our procedures and our letters with a view to improving both, to ensure this does not happen again.”