Council Tax Debt Collection Policies ‘Ineffective and Counterproductive’

November 14, 2019

The ways in which council tax debts are typically pursued across England is both ineffective and damaging to the wellbeing of many individual consumers and households.

That’s the assessment of the charity group Citizens Advice, which has revealed figures indicating that councils only recoup 27p for every £1 they enlist bailiffs to recover on their behalf.

Meanwhile, as bailiffs seek to attain council tax debts they’ve been given, they potentially make life harder for people on the receiving end of their activities, who are often already in problem debt situations.

Citizens Advice highlights as part of the problem the fact that households generally become liable for their entire annual council tax bills if they miss a single monthly payment.

For a lot of people, being asked to pay for an entire year’s worth of council tax upfront is a major financial headache and one that is not made better by bailiffs paying them visits to demand payments.

Indeed, the view of Citizens Advice is that the extent to which councils use bailiffs makes it more difficult for individuals and households to get their finances back on track if they’ve fallen behind with paying their bills.

A Freedom of Information request submitted by the charity recently uncovered details of just how ineffective bailiffs are at recovering money owed to councils in England.

The figures suggest that less than 30 per cent of council tax arrears sent to bailiffs across the country were successfully recovered in 2018.

According to Citizens Advice, council tax is now a hugely widespread source of financial difficulties and debt problems, with an estimated 2.2 million people in England alone understood to be behind on their council tax bills.

The charity wants to see councils rethink the ways in which they engage with debtors and, particularly, how they treat vulnerable people in debt.

“Council tax debt is now worryingly common but the collection system is broken,” says Gillian Guy, chief executive of Citizens Advice.

“It doesn’t work for the people who are driven further into debt and it doesn’t work for councils or the taxpayer who are seeing millions of pounds go to waste each year.”

Paul Barber

Head Adviser at our Manchester Office

Tel: 0800 001 4247

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