Figures for council tax arrears have been revealed as part of a new report on bailiff reforms, and it amounts to hundreds of thousands of pounds in unpaid council tax owed to local authorities across the country such as South Derbyshire District Council. In many cases, councils have used bailiffs to collect debts from those households in arrears, an action which is reportedly only used when the “best efforts [of] officers” fail to successfully recover payments.
What the report doesn’t concern itself with, however, is the inability of many families to keep up with council tax payments, many of whom have only just become eligible since support for low-income households was cut across the UK. This has led to more and more individuals and families struggling with council tax debt, with the fear of bailiff visits continuously hanging over them. And with reports of unprofessional bailiffs using threatening or unlawful tactics making the issue worse, reforms have had to be brought in to address the issues.
Kevin Stackhouse, director of finance and corporate services, said: “The nature of the bailiff’s work inevitably results in concerns being raised by debtors regarding individual bailiffs and or the process. In a handful of cases a change in process has been made subsequently to improve transparency and clarity.”
Various new rules regarding what bailiffs are and aren’t allowed to do when visiting debtors’ home were put in place earlier this month. In South Derbyshire in 2012-13, however, £617,372 of unpaid debt was owed to the district council across 1,295 cases, highlighting the huge problem with households falling into arrears across the country. In addition to this, new fees regarding bailiff visits have been introduced, adding to the amount owed for thousands of low income households.
This includes a non-refundable charge of £75 for non-enforcement activity such as phone calls, emails and visitation arrangements, with a further £235 added whenever an enforcement agent pays a visit to a debtor’s home. With payments already a problem when these charges are applied, despite the improvement in bailiff behaviour, many families are simply finding that their financial problems are worsening with the newly introduced fees, and Council Tax Advisors have seen a marked increase in enquiries because of this.
Going through problems with council tax arrears can be an incredibly stressful and isolating experience, but the experts at CTA are here to help organise repayment plans, offer advice and help with a friendly and professional service designed to rid those in need of their issues with council tax debt and bailiffs for good. Contact us today to find out more.