Thousands in Portsmouth left unable to pay bills because of blunder with benefits

Portsmouth City Council said an issue electronically processing payments meant they were not paid into people's accounts
Portsmouth City Council said an issue electronically processing payments meant they were not paid into people's accounts
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THOUSANDS of residents entitled to housing benefits have been left strapped for cash because of a delay paying in their allowance.

Portsmouth City Council said an issue electronically processing payments with the bank on time meant they were not paid in to people’s accounts yesterday.

Around 5,000 residents were affected and it has proved a nightmare for those needing to pay rent and cover their bills – and has left some virtually penniless until the money is paid in.

Everyone is expected to get their cash on Thursday.

It does not affect people in council-owned homes or those who are paid by cheque.

Jacinta Aitken, 51, of Southsea, said she was waiting on £230 and now only has £1.86 to cover her outgoings.

‘I don’t know what to do and what others are doing in the same situation,’ she said.

‘I phoned the council’s benefits department 15 times and it just went to voicemail saying due to a high demand in calls, please call back later.

‘It didn’t even explain what the problem was.

‘It means bills won’t be paid and I don’t have enough money for rent.

‘What are people going to do in the meantime?’

Customers who have incurred bank charges as a result of the delay will have those costs reimbursed up until they receive their money if they submit evidence from their bank.

Lib Dem councillor Michael Andrewes said: ‘Information seems to have come very late and been very difficult to get hold of. People have also complained to me that the council could have used Twitter and Facebook to explain what was going on and when they could expect an explanation and payment.’

Ed Woodhouse, the council’s head of service for revenues and benefits, said: ‘As a result of a problem with our processing of the BACS file on December 30, the payment file was not submitted to our bank at the correct time.

‘We regret that this has resulted in a slight delay in making payments to our housing benefit customers.

‘The payments that were originally due on Monday will now begin to process from lunchtime on Wednesday, and all customers should receive their payments on Thursday.

He added: ‘I would like to sincerely apologise for any difficulties this may have caused our customers and can confirm that we are now urgently reviewing the processes involved to prevent this happening again.’

- Have you been affected by the delay? Call Miles O’Leary on (023) 9262 2169.