William Eichler 08 July 2016

Councils must ‘review their debt collection practices’, charity says

Councils must ‘review their debt collection practices’, charity says image

Council tax debt collection tactics are driving people into more debt, charity argues.

A new report from Citizens Advice says the number of people contacting them for help dealing with council tax debt problems has increased by a third since 2013/14.

The report, Catching up: improving council tax arrears collection, said the charity helped people with 196,000 council tax debt problems in England between April 2015 and March 2016, making it the number one debt issue for the charity.

Citizens Advice asked more than 1,000 people with council tax debt about their experience and found 54% said the council’s actions made it harder to clear their debts.

71% of respondents said they had extra charges added to their bill and 48% had been visited by a bailiff. Only 30% were offered an affordable repayment plan.

Almost half (46%) of people also said authorities stopped allowing them to pay their council tax by normal monthly instalments and asked for the remaining costs for the year in one go.

One person who contacted the charity for help had a £27 debt which ballooned to £417 after council officials charged fees for obtaining a court order and calling bailiffs.

The report notes some local authorities have introduced better collection practices, such as the use in-house bailiffs who ask debtors about their financial situation.

Gillian Guy, chief executive of Citizens Advice, said: ‘Some councils are too quick to crackdown on people falling behind on council tax.

‘Of course it’s right people should repay their council tax - but calling in bailiffs, adding on extra charges or forcing someone to pay the rest of the year’s council tax bill in one lump sum can make the situation worse for everyone.’

‘Some councils have developed much fairer approaches to collecting debt and as a result get money back much faster,’ Ms Guy continued.

‘Even simple steps, like improving communication and offering a realistic repayment plan, can ease the strain on debtors and ensure councils get what they’re owed.

‘It is really important councils review their debt collection practices to make sure they are helping people to overcome their debt problems rather than making their financial problems worse.’

However, the Reverend Paul Nicolson from Taxpayers Against Poverty, said it was disappointing the report fails to mention DCLG, MOJ or DWP guidance about vulnerable people.

He said: 'The most disappointing part of the CAB report is its bland assumption that the intrinsic unfairness of enforcing a tax against shredded benefit incomes will continue and only needs to be "improved". It must be stopped.'

Overcoming the barriers to Commercial Card use image

Overcoming the barriers to Commercial Card use

Want to reap the benefits of Commercial Cards but coming up against some challenges? James Sykes, Head of Commercial Cards, Lloyds Bank and David Legg, Head of Corporate Card Products, Lloyds Bank, discuss how the payments industry is helping organisations unlock their true value.
SIGN UP
For your free daily news bulletin
Highways jobs

Chief Finance Officer

Calderdale Metropolitan Borough Council
£91,209 per annum
You will join a high performing, thriving Council, which developing next practice in health and care integration and playing a lead role in... Calderdale, West Yorkshire
Recuriter: Calderdale Metropolitan Borough Council

Commercial Customer Manager

North Yorkshire County Council
£39,880 to £43,857
Are you someone who is innovative and has the drive to increase revenue for the Council whilst ensuring excellent service provision to our customers? Northallerton, North Yorkshire
Recuriter: North Yorkshire County Council

Social Care Lead Officer

Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council
£35,745 - £40,876 pro rata per annum
A vacancy has become available for a part time Social Care Lead Officer, to cover in... Sandwell, West Midlands
Recuriter: Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council

Communications & Corporate Affairs Manager

Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council
£47,845 - £50,900 per annum
To apply for this role please upload your most recent CV that sets out your relevant experience against the job description. Sandwell, West Midlands
Recuriter: Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council

Career Grade Planning Officer

Royal Borough of Greenwich
£27978 - £37722 per annum + n/a
Career Grade Planning Officer - West Area and East Area Team The Royal Borough of Greenwich continues to faces an unprecedented growth agenda in terms England, London
Recuriter: Royal Borough of Greenwich

Public Property

Latest issue - Public Property News

This issue of Public Property examines how how flexible workspaces can lead the way in regeneration for local authorities, Why local authority intervention is key to successful urban regeneration schemes and if the Government’s challenge of embracing beauty is an opportunity for communities.

The March issue also takes a closer look at Blackburn with Darwen Council's first digital health hub to help people gain control over health and care services.

Register for your free digital issue