Wealden District Council

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Cheque-ing Out

Media Release : 04 March 2019

After 31 March 2019 Wealden District Council will no longer accept cheques at the Council Offices for the payment of any bills or services.

Bank cheque

Cllr Bob Standley, Leader and Governance & Strategic Finance Portfolio Holder said: "We’ve taken the decision to stop accepting cheques at the Council after 31 March as we feel it’s safer for our customers. Most of our customers already pay for Council services by Direct Debit, and so it makes sense for us to stop accepting them as a method of payment in order to reduce the risk of fraud and identity theft. It also costs the Council approximately £10 to process each cheque, meaning that this action will help to keep Council Tax as low as possible."

Since 2011 there has been a 65% reduction in the number of people paying for Council services by cheque. Council bills are being redesigned to make the payment process easier. They will include a number of alternative payment options and suggest places for people to pay using a method that suits them.

It’s not quite game over for the cheque though. Those still wishing to pay the Council by cheque will still be able to do so via their local Post Office.

 

Frequently Asked Questions:

I want to pay by cheque, how can I do that?
Our bills will have a barcode printed on them. If you prefer, we can send you a Pay Point payment card.  Then it’s as easy as 1,2,3:

  1. Take your bill with your barcode or Pay Point payment card, make your cheque payable to “Post Office Limited” and go to your nearest Post Office (some Pay Point outlets also take cheques – ask the store staff).
  2. The barcode on your bill or on your Pay Point payment card will be scanned and your payment taken.
  3. Keep your receipt and your payment will be on your account the next working day.
    The Post Office takes cheques.  Your local Pay Point might take them too – check with the staff in the shop.  Pay Points take cash and debit card payments too.


Why can’t I send my cheque in the post as I used to?
We are doing this for two reasons:

  1. It isn’t safe. Have you thought a cheque contains your sort code, account number, signature and a number of customers write their address on the back of the cheque? The cheque does not have to be stolen, but simply photographed on a smartphone and a criminal has all they require for identity theft. The number of calls from customers sent letters for non-payment where their cheque has been cashed after it has been altered by criminals is on the increase. We cannot help with this and you have to contact your bank.  We also have many calls about cheques that have not reached us and have gone missing in the post.
  2. We want to help keep Post Offices and local shops open. By taking your payment to your local Post Office or shop with a Pay Point, they get a fee for every transaction. The Post Office takes into account the number of transactions in every branch when deciding whether to close it or not. Local shops also struggle if customers don’t come in and spend money. If you want to pay by cheque then pop in and help keep them open.


I thought cheques were legal tender and you had to accept them?
Cheques are not legal tender and never have been.  If you owe the Council money we are not obliged to accept a cheque. We are entitled to be paid in legal tender (which means Royal Mint coins and Bank of England banknotes) and can refuse payment in any other form. Most supermarkets haven’t accepted cheques for years – if they were legal tender they couldn’t have done that.


Are Wealden the first Council to ban cheques?
We haven’t banned cheques, we just won’t accept them through the post or at the Council Offices. We are not the first Council to do this by any means. South Hams District Council in Devon has been ‘electronic payments only’ for a year and there have been no problems. They don’t let their customers use the Post Office or Pay Point – we do, as we want to help keep local Post Offices and shops open.


If I keep sending you cheques and you take me to court for non-payment the court will let me off won’t it?
As we will have given you lots of opportunities to pay, including by cheque at your local Post Office or Paypoint, then no. You can go to court but for Council Tax and Business Rates you are likely to incur the full £82.50 Summons and Liability Order costs on top your bill. If you’re a Council tenant and you don’t pay your rent then your home is at risk and the court may order your eviction.


I’m disabled, how do you know this will work for me?
We consulted with the Wealden Disability Involvement Group who thought it was a good idea.  They felt people ought to know cheques were not a safe payment method. They asked us to support disabled people to understand Direct Debit, the guarantee so you can get your money back from your bank if we make a mistake and how it is much safer than cheques.


Aren’t you inconveniencing tens of thousands of people doing this?
99 out of 100 people pay another way. 4 out of 5 people pay by Direct Debit – that’s over 54,000.  Cheque payments have declined by more than 65% since 2011 and debit and credit card payments overtook cheques in 2012.  In the period 1 April 2018 to 31 December 2018 we received:

  • 8,380 cheques from around 4,400 customers
  • 28,816 payments via the Post Office/Pay Point
  • 48,146 debit/credit card payments.