A PENSIONER who lives near the Herefordshire border was mistakenly sent bills from his local authority demanding that he owed them £20 million in council tax.

Michael Napolitano, from Presteigne, received letters from Powys County Council (PCC) indicating he owed more than £6 million on each of three properties he owns. And while Mr Napolitano fully acknowledged he’d paid his council tax bill late he was stunned to discover that he supposedly owed his local authority a total of £20,290,019.

After failing to resolve the matter because he couldn’t get through to the council on the phone, Mr Napolitano attended a court hearing he was summonsed to in Llandrindod Wells last week, where an apologetic council employee informed him there had been a clerical error. The council explained that the error occurred when original data was misaligned with a document template, but said the correct amount Powys residents owed was also sent out to them at the end of July alongside the incorrect amounts.

However, the 74-year-old – a former builder who still works in the trade – said the authority is yet to issue an official apology. Meanwhile, he also wants to invoice them for the morning’s wages he lost attending the court hearing.

“I’ll say they must be pretty expensive properties,” joked Mr Napolitano, who can see the funny side, although he said it’s a “disgraceful” error from the council.

“It’s farcical. I’m always late paying my rates but I do always pay. When I saw from the three letters that the total summons amounted to £20 million, I thought ‘bloody hell, what is going on?’.

“I made some effort to ring up the council, but I couldn’t get through. They say there are channels to contact them on but you can’t get through, I failed to communicate with anybody. I suppose I didn’t try as hard as I could but I’ve got other things to do with my life.”

Mr Napolitano instead decided to answer the summons, attending Llandrindod Wells Magistrates Court last Wednesday, August 18.

“So, I thought I’d turn up on the day. I owed council tax on three properties and they wanted over £6 million on each. They’re pretty expensive properties by the sounds of it, and I don’t have a spare £20 million to give to the council. It’s a simple mistake but it’s an embarrassing one.

“The gentleman from the council was very helpful, very apologetic and very embarrassed. He did everything he could. He explained they moved forward some digits and no-one checked it.”

Mr Napolitano was told by the council tax officer at court that around 1,200 letters had been sent out in error by the local authority, which prompted further alarm. “He (the officer) offered to scotch the £50 court fee, but then I thought that if they’ve sent out that many mistaken letters then that’s £60,000 in court fees issued,” added Mr Napolitano.

“I’m 74 and a pensioner but I still bumble about with work and I’m lucky I’m still fit enough to be able to do so. But there are surely other, more vulnerable, people out there who had similar letters and they might have really been panicked by this. There’s been enough stress for people in the last two years without this.

“Anybody can make a mistake but you’d think there’d be someone there to look at it and say £6 million plus in council tax isn’t likely to be right.”

A spokesperson for PCC said: “The county council cannot comment on an individual case; however, it can confirm a number of duplicate summonses were issued in error on July 30.

“The error occurred when original data was misaligned with a document template. A corrected file was produced but unfortunately both were issued.

“Once council became aware of this issue, the telephony system was updated with a message outlining the issue and directing customers to the correct summons document.

“The council is investigating the cause of the error and will be implementing additional controls to prevent it happening again. The council apologies for any inconvenience.”