The Government has pledged to make the collection of Council Tax arrears a much fairer system and work closer with debt advice organisations, such as Debt Support Trust.
As it stands, people with council tax arrears In England and Wales may find themselves with bailiffs turning up on their doorstep, however MPs want to see this changed.
While bailiffs will still be used to collect council tax arrears, Ministers want to see greater care taken when dealing with vulnerable and disabled people.
Local Government Minister Rishi Sunak MP outlined his thoughts behind the proposed changes:
“Council Tax collection is essential to running public services, like caring for those most at risk, collecting bins and keeping our transport networks running.
“The experiences of some innovative councils show that Council Tax collection rates can be improved without resorting to the unfair treatment of vulnerable people.
“That’s why I’m pushing forward work to make the Council Tax collection system fairer and more efficient – so people are treated with compassion while services get the funds they need.”
According to the Governments own website, the changes could include:
l Assessing a person’s affordability and taking this into account before escalating any action taken against them
l Having a closer link between councils and debt advice organisations
l Using fairer debt intervention methods
Stuart Carmichael, Chief Executive at Debt Support Trust, believes these changes are positive and long overdue, he said:
“Council tax arrears are one of the most common reasons people contact our debt advice charity. We often hear stories from people who are afraid they’re going to lose all of their possessions or believe they will be sent to prison. Bailiff action in recovering council tax arrears has been overbearing and excessive for some time, so we would be delighted if relief were to be granted, but it still needs to go further.
“Some people are vulnerable or simply unable to repay the full amount of arrears owed and in these circumstances we would urge bailiffs to take a person’s personal and financial positioninto consideration. In some instances, affordable and reasonable repayment proposals are being rejected and people are forced to continue to deal with threatening behaviour from debt collection agents.
“All too often we hear of arrears increasing simply due to a bailiff making numerous visits, further escalating the financial problems, when it could have been resolved earlier.”
Council Tax Arrears Increase Almost 40%
It was recently revealed that council tax arrears rose by nearly 40% across England in the last 6 years, to reach £944m during the 2017-18 financial year, up from £691m in 2012 – 2013.
The rise has led to a number of various debt advice organisations questioning the methods used by local councils to recoup money owed.
The Institute for Fiscal Studies has claimed 90% of English councils have cut their support for those of working age.
According to Caroline Siarkiewicz, director at the Money and Pensions Service, one third of people contacting debt advice organisations have council tax arrears, a figure we can confirm at Debt Support Trust.
Help For Council Tax Arrears
If you have council tax arrears and you’re unsure about your options in regards to dealing with them, speaking to a debt advice organisation, such as Debt Support Trust could help.
We will assess your financial circumstances and consider whether you’re applicable for a debt solution or if negotiating with a bailiff is your best route to dealing with the arrears.
You can call Debt Support Trust on 0800 085 0226 and speak to one of our debt advisers today. Alternatively you can complete our online debt test and we will call you back.