Has automation removed any scope for plain sense?
IT would have been utterly crass if Winifred Coulson had merely been sent a bill for 13p for city council care services.
The fact that she should never have had actually incurred a bill, since the service was free, makes it even dafter.
It is even more ludicrous since the service was, in any event, stopped after a few weeks, though the bill purported to cover a much longer period of 13 weeks.
And the whole episode becomes immeasurably worse and assumes a tragic overtone with the realisation that the bill arrived nine days after Mrs Coulson's death.
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The upset felt by the two daughters of the 92-year-old is easy to understand.
Naturally, the council's explanation is bland and blame is lost in anonymity. "An accounting error" is given as the reason.
Let us put aside for one minute the fact that the bill should never have been sent in the first place, since Mrs Coulson's family had been assured that the care link service was free for her.
In this automated age, is there no place for common sense?
It would have cost far more than the 13p debt being avidly pursued to pay for the postage and for the staff time involved.
And somebody at the Council House needs to take a screwdriver to a computer – or put fresh batteries in their accountants' desk calculators.
The bill stated that Mrs Coulson received the service for 13 weeks from October 24 to October 25. They certainly must cram a lot of hours into one day for that maths to add up!
At least they thoughtfully offered the late OAP the option of seven different ways of paying off her debt.
They included paying by standing order. The bank would have loved that one.
Regardless of the dates confusion on the bill, she had not received the remote monitoring service for anything like 13 weeks.
Her family had told the council that, as she was largely bed-bound, it was not needed and it was removed.
How could that not have been noted on the council records? They must be in turmoil.
Maybe the authority can be excused not knowing of her death – though the only reason for that, of course, was that she was no longer being monitored.
However, even if it had been a valid bill – for the correct period, sum and service – and posted to a living person, the council might still want to ponder how it goes about its debt-chasing.
Mrs Coulson was 92. When people of her advanced years receive correspondence with "PAYMENT DUE IMMEDIATELY" menacingly messaged, it can cause them distress and fretting.
And they may even pay up for services they have not received – assuming, of course, that they are still alive to do so.