Laura Sharman 19 August 2020

Pre-crisis council tax arrears reached £3.6bn

Local authorities were owed £3.6bn in unpaid council tax before the start of the pandemic, figures have shown.

Charities warn that more households will be struggling with council tax debt as a result of the outbreak, with 1.3 million households likely to have built up council tax arrears.

Money Advice Trust is calling for the Government to make changes to council tax regulations to give councils more flexibility to recover debts affordably without resorting to the court process.

This includes changing collection rate targets, stop people becoming automatically liable for their entire bill when they fall behind on installments, and a requirement to set up an affordable repayment plan.

Jane Tully, director of external affairs and partnerships at the Money Advice Trust, said: 'The Government has to move quickly to ensure local authorities are able to collect council tax debt in a fair and proportionate way. This needs to include changing collection rules to ensure people are given the time they need to repay and introducing a ‘pre-action protocol’ councils would be required to follow before starting enforcement action.

'With the government’s ban on council tax bailiff visits set to end this Sunday, we also need to see urgent guidance put in place to protect people from bailiff action as the Coronavirus outbreak continues to impact households.'

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