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Arvato & Council Tax

An everyday story of residents' misery

Report and photographs: Paul Janik


Arvato can make residents lives a misery.

That is the experience of Slough Times when investigating the privatised nightmare inflicted on Slough's many unsuspecting citizens by Labour Party councillors who voted for it.

Unlike Internet, telephones, mobile phones, television packages, car insurance, holiday destinations, gas and electricity suppliers and your own choice of food and drink – when it comes to the dreaded Council, everyone has no choice. The public are stuck with a failing profligate organisation who nauseatingly boast of "excellence in customer services".

Labour's chief councillor James Swindlehurst says people vote Labour because people like what the Labour-controlled council is doing – like putting-up Council Tax again and wasting the public's money ?

Arvato & telephone calls

Callers telephoning The Council expect the Council to answer. Arvato staff answer instead. Often polite but usually clueless and inept, Arvato pretend to be genuine council employees.

The system put in place by former top council official Roger Parkin, is Arvato answer the public's calls. Arvato put into their database the caller's details including name, address and telephone number and enquiry.

Arvato then sends an email to the council staff. If the caller is lucky, Arvato will telephone council staff asking them about the matter. Arvato then tells the caller the council staff's answer.

Sometimes Arvato do not understand basic things and will wrongly tell the council what they think the call is about. This confusion does not help the public.

During the telephone call Arvato refuse to let the public speak directly to knowledgeable council staff. Arvato always refuses to reveal council staff names and their direct telephone numbers.

When the public ask to speak to a manager, Arvato say their manager will call back but it can take 10 days.

Arvato staff are reluctant to reveal their names. Some give their forename. Callers wonder whether that name is unique at Arvato or even genuine. Some Arvato staff cut-off unhappy customers without warning.

Arvato's convoluted time-wasting double-handling of the public's telephone calls is wasting council money. It also wastes the public's own time and money.

There is no evidence that either Slough Council or Arvato want to improve the poor service which is costing £10.1/2 million per year.

The Slough Times recently rang Arvato on behalf of a resident. When we asked to speak to a senior manager, we were told there is only one manager and that manager does not start work until 10:30 a.m.

The Slough Times impression is Arvato staff know very little about the council. That makes it difficult for Arvato staff to efficiently serve the public.

Arvato and Council Tax

This has been a calamity years before Arvato took it over in 2012. Arvato inherited poor quality council staff with bad attitudes. Arvato also got a can-of-worms with no proper computer system, no proper procedures and a service which senior council staff had neglected for years.

Arvato now rent a Council Tax system from an expensive company with a shocking record of government failures over twenty years. Arvato staff are invited to confidentially tell us how everything is working.

Arvato is not a charity. Skillful money-hungry Arvato bosses knowingly took-over council services expecting to make a large profit. They can not claim they never knew about the pathetic Council Tax mess before they signed the contract.

Arvato bosses are thorough. When they took over the council's Landmark Place call centre (at Crown Corner, on the junction of the High Street and Windsor Road) they checked all the staff and discovered Slough Council was employing an illegal immigrant. Shocked Arvato bosses alerted the council. Anxious to avoid a public scandal, the Council promised the man an undisclosed sum of money if he would resign the following morning and disappear. The man took the money and vanished without trace. Jubilant council bosses thought no one would ever discover their unlawful hanky-panky.

A Council Tax farce

When a call is about Council Tax, the caller is left waiting in a telephone queue; sometimes longer than 30 minutes.

These long waits clearly demonstrates, in the Slough Times opinion, Arvato is making bigger profits by not employing enough staff to answer the phones.

The Slough Times witnessed Arvato's deliberate lying when a family objected to a Council Tax arrears demand.

  1. After waiting more than 28 minutes, Arvato answered the telephone.
  2. Husband: We do not owe you any Council Tax.
  3. Arvato man: You haven't paid for October last year.
  4. Wife: Yes we have. I've got the receipt.
  5. Arvato man: It is not a council receipt.
  6. Wife: Yes it is. Its got Slough Borough Council printed on it.
  7. Arvato man: You haven't paid last July's bill
  8. Wife: Yes we have. I've got that receipt too. That's my proof I paid.
  9. Arvato man: You didn't pay it to the Council.
  10. Wife: Yes I did. I paid it at My Council.
  11. Arvato man: There is nothing shown here.
  12. Wife: I paid the money to the cashiers in My Council and they gave me an official council receipt. If you haven't got our money you can take it up with the council. I've got the receipt that proves I paid it.
  13. Arvato man: (silence) It is probably January's you haven't paid.
  14. Wife: We have paid it. I've got the receipt in my hand. It's a good job I've been keeping all these receipts otherwise you'll charge us double council tax. We are not fools you know.
  15. Husband: What's your game ? Why are you making all this stuff up ? Your records aren't straight. You're picking on us because we are poor.
  16. Arvato man: (very loudly) Ahhhh. I've found it. It is because you have just come-off benefits.
  17. Husband: (very indignant) I haven't been on benefits for over 5 years. You don't know what are you talking about. You haven't got a clue.
  18. Arvato man: We'll have to look into this and let you know.
The family never heard any more about their alleged Council Tax arrears. They never received an apology from Arvato for all the lies.

Before Arvato got the contract, the same family, like many other people in Slough, were outrageously victimised by the council's bailiffs demanding Council Tax arrears and excessively high fees for putting threatening notes through people's letterboxes. Council Tax victims often thought they had already paid but having no receipts they could not prove it.

In the Slough Times experience the council forges documents. We hope this criminal practise has not infected Arvato.

Our advice is to protect yourself. Record conversations, if possible, and keep detailed notes. Most importantly, Council Tax payers are strongly urged to keep all their receipts for at least 6 years because Slough Council Tax is in a mess.

Acute embarrassment caused the council's press office to remain silent.

Knowing it could not defend the undefendable shambles, Slough Council's press office declined to provide a comment.

The Council have been doing this sort of thing for years.

I have heard stories where people paid double because they were threatened with bailiffs. This is not the first or the last.

Stories like that need to be exposed. Perhaps an education session should be set up to advise exactly who to call, what to do, and exactly how to store receipts.

From my own experience of receipts especially thermal ones, some of them have a nasty habit of just completely turning black or brown. Those receipts become void and no doubt the Council and their bully boys know that and can just call off random missing payments any time they please.

N.000832

People ring the council's legal section complaining about Council Tax court orders. I don't know what happens. If Arvato was not a problem, there would be no calls.

I feel sorry for them.

N.030117