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Council gets tough in bid to recover £1m in unpaid council tax

The enforcement powers of local authorities when it comes to recovering council tax arrears have been ably demonstrated by a council in the Midlands.

East Staffordshire Borough Council has pressed ahead with court action against more than 1,000 residents who have not paid their council tax bills.

The action is another indication of the council’s hard-line stance on dealing with those in arrears who have failed to respond to demands for payment, with liability orders having already been served against 1,000 people this year.

The total amount of council tax that remains unpaid in East Staffordshire stands at £2.2 million, but it is believed that this latest round of enforcement action is looking to recover around half of that amount.

Officials have stressed that the lingering of this substantial debt will not have a detrimental financial impact on the authority and defended its record for collecting council tax.

A council spokesman said: “Over the last three years, East Staffordshire Borough Council has collected more than 98 per cent of the council tax billed, which is more than the national average council tax collection.”

He added that the issue of liability orders to recover unpaid council tax is a last resort, but warned claimants that ignoring the issue would leave them open to legal action.

“The council follows a number of recovery actions and the majority of arrears outstanding as of March 31, 2014 are being recovered through arrangements with individual tax payers.

“If any claimant is struggling to pay their council tax, we would urge them to call us as soon as possible.”

However, Robert Oxley, campaign director of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, has criticised local authorities for not doing enough to differentiate between those who are blatantly dodging their council tax obligations and those who are genuinely struggling to pay.

“Tough action should be taken on those who refuse, while others who are simply struggling with rising bills should be helped with easier ways to pay,” he said.

If you are in council tax arrears, hoping the problem will go away is simply not an option. Make no mistake, ignoring it will only make the situation worse and could have serious implications. Notifying your local authority early that you are struggling to make your repayments will ensure that the threat of legal action is kept at bay.

Alternatively, contact Council Tax Advisors for comprehensive and independent advice on how to deal with council tax arrears.

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