HOUNSLOW Council was banned from shopping at Argos for failing to pay its bills on time.

The local authority repeatedly missed payments on its account with the high street chain, which froze its account this summer.

A new payment system was introduced at the Civic Centre as part of the council's improvement programme but, rather then improve the efficiency of paying invoices, the council frequently missed its 30 day limit.

The problems with the account left the council's Youth Service unable to buy toys, games and fittings for the borough's youth clubs – a situation described by one councillor as 'shocking'.

Councillor Ruth Cadbury, deputy leader of the Labour opposition, said: “The whole invoice system was centralised and it was a shambles. The centralised billing system was not set up properly. It's an example of the shambolic implementation of the improvement programme. It's shocking.”

The issue was resolved when the council changed the way it paid its bills and the account is now back in operation.

A spokesman for Hounslow Council said: “We have corporate account with Argos that gives us a small discount. The terms of the account were that payments have to be made within 30 days, and a small number of officers weren’t getting the invoices to the payments team in time. This put the account on hold for everyone else until the payment is made – which it was once the invoices were received by the payments team.

“To avoid this, the payments team changed how we operate the system so that if invoices weren’t sent in time, we would remove the officer’s ability to use the account. This, unsurprisingly, has seen much prompter processing and the account is operating normally.”

An Argos spokesman said Hounslow Council was a 'valued customer' but refused to discuss the problems with the account due to 'customer confidentiality'.