Council holds onto cash thanks to major problems with new ‘cost cutting’ system
When is a theft not a theft? As many people across the city are discovering, in Bristol it’s when the council takes more money than it should from overstretched families, and doesn’t give it back.
The BRISTOLIAN has uncovered a massive ongoing – and possibly unlawful – scandal in which Bristol City Council REFUSES TO REFUND overpayments of any kind in spite of its legal obligations, thanks to chaos caused by a new computer finance system. Attempts to obtain a refund for overcharged Council Tax, allotment fees, nursery charges or other services have been routinely rebuffed, leaving many unable to settle other essential bills, pay rent or even buy food.
Blaming a software changeover – for which most workers have received NO PROPER TRAINING and have only just been issued manuals – the council refuses to say how long people will have to wait until they get their wrongfully-withheld money back.
It is understood that the council is currently holding onto refunds owed to dozens if not HUNDREDS OF BRISTOLIANS.
Sources suggest that staff have been ordered to stonewall demands for immediate refunds, to refuse to give out names, telephone numbers or email addresses for supervisors or managers, and to offer misleading and contradictory information – anything to buy time and avoid the inevitable shitstorm of complaints and rolling heads.
With a cloak of secrecy descending over the council’s now seriously understaffed phone banks, and a CULTURE OF CONTEMPT for ordinary Bristolians trickling down from the upper reaches of Shitty Hall, it is not entirely clear why this is happening.
However, insiders have pointed The BRISTOLIAN towards a contract awarded by BCC to bring together its Finance, Human Resources and Asset Management into a single ‘integrated Back Office System’. The five year project was won by outsourcing specialists Agilisys (“one of the UK’s most innovative IT and business services providers”), who provided the lowest tender – a snip at a mere £40 million.
And the magical, problem-solving, cost-cutting, budget-saving gizmo in question that’s costing every man, woman and child in the city around £95 each? That would be the bells-and-whistles Agresso Business World Local Government Platform from Unit4. The impressive-sounding new toy – being rolled out by the council’s veteran Finance & Procurement Manager RUSSELL ‘OH MY’ DARLING under the supervision of Corporate Finance supremo GRAHAM ‘THANK FUCK IT’S’ FRIDAY – is meant to bring everything together into one easy-to-use package.
Unfortunately, it seems to be a somewhat sticky-fingered piece of software, if the experiences of the out-of-pocket Bristolians we have spoken to are anything to go by.
What lengths Shitty Hall will go to to silence whistleblowers amongst its hard-pressed frontline staff or unhappy members of the public remains to be seen.
What does seem certain is that no one upstream of a junior council manager will be to held to account – and definitely nothing will stand in the way of a juicy £40 million gravy train.