Published On: Tue, Aug 18th, 2020

Council tax changes are needed as payment debts reach £3.6billion – will bailiffs return? | Personal Finance | Finance

Council tax is paid by most people who are 18 or over and own or rent the home they’re living in. In some instances, people may fall behind with their payments which can create a worrying debt problem.

This could include involving bailiffs, which can add further stress and additional fees and charges.

Specifically, the charity has called for the following changes to be made:

  • Introduce a ‘pre-action protocol’ for councils to follow before beginning to enforce council tax recovery. This would include a requirement to set up an affordable repayment plan
  • Stop people becoming automatically liable for their entire annual bill when they fall behind on instalments
  • Encourage councils to collect debts over more than one year by changing collection rate targets
  • Provide more hardship funding to councils to reduce council tax arrears accrued as a result of Covid-19

These changes may need to be introduced very quickly if they’re to have an impact.

This is because bailiff visits will soon recommence following a temporary ban.

Bailiff visits are more prevalent than some may expect, with the Money Advice Trust revealing that 1.4 million council tax debts were passed to bailiffs by councils in England and Wales in 2018/19.

Jane Tully, a director of external affairs and partnerships, at the Money Advice Trust, commented on the figures: “These new figures show the scale of council tax arrears even before Covid-19 hit.

“The impact of the outbreak means many more households have already fallen behind – leaving millions at risk, particularly if councils continue down collection routes that can push residents further into financial difficulty.

“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. Without this government guidance, the ban on bailiff visits should not be allowed to expire.”

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