Lewisham Council have been accused of “bullying” single people after sending out letters to people living alone saying they may be breaking tax laws.

Letters were sent out to residents the council believed were incorrectly claiming a council tax single person discount, warning that if they do not complete a form by September 1 their discount would be cancelled.

Mike Farish was one of the people who received the letter and he said it was an example of Lewisham Council’s “adversarial attitude”.

He said: “It does simply ask me to confirm that I am the sole occupant of my flat. It specifically states that they have evidence to the contrary and that I am therefore claiming single person’s discount falsely.

“I have lived here for almost 30 years. In that time I have lived here by myself the entire time.

“If this were just an isolated error then again this might be unexceptional but the letter looks to be a standard communication.”

Mr Farish believes the letter qualifies as bullying by the council and would distress people who receive it, believing they had committed fraud.

He said: “I don’t think I am being unduly sensationalist to suppose that there might well be people – older or maybe those with some form of psychological problem – who might well be distressed and alarmed to receive such a communication.

“Frankly without evidence to the contrary I think this indicates a rather contemptuous, adversarial attitude on the part of Lewisham Council towards large numbers of its residents.”

A Lewisham Council spokesperson said: “We have a legal obligation to review all discounts and exemptions awarded to council tax payers to ensure every resident is paying the correct level of tax.

“If any residents think a decision about their council tax discount is wrong they can complete a declaration form and we will review the details. We are unable to comment on individual cases.”

“We run a helpline to answer questions/advise residents about how to complete the single person discount declaration form – 0333 566 0310. The line is open between 9am and 5:30pm, Monday to Friday.

“The declaration can also be completed on line at www.spd-verifcation.co.uk. You will need to enter the verification code on the letter to use the online method.”