Resistance to Council Tax Changes as Support for Many is Axed

Tens of thousands of households are facing fresh struggles with debt as more council tax support is axed and rising bills spark a rise in bailiff visits. Those affected by the changes in council tax charges and support include many vulnerable people, with a number of the country’s poorest households deteriorating into council tax arrears and unable to fall back on support previously offered to them. A reported 600,000 households have been taken to court over these debts, and 87,000 are being pursued by debt collectors.

Council tax benefit was cut by around £500 million last year, and the decision has been met with a lot of resistance from those concerned about the ability of some households to keep up with payments without falling into often crippling amounts of debt. With these arrears, the fear for many is that bailiffs, now ‘rebranded’ as enforcement officers, will come soon after. The results of these new rules, dubbed by some as “the new Poll Tax,” have meant that an estimated 2.2 million people are now liable to pay for the first time.

This amounts to between 10% and 30% of their full bill, which previous aid would have helped to cover for poorer families, at an average of £200 a year. Now, with more and more people being summoned to court and receiving unwanted visits from bailiffs, it’s clear that the rise in bills for many is an additional burden they simply cannot afford. Increasing debt can put unimaginable strain on families already struggling to make ends meet but luckily the team at Council Tax Advisors is on hand to help with advice and various practical solutions including reasonable repayment plans.

With problems increasing for so many families, the need for reliable, trustworthy advice is getting more pressing. We understand how dire things can be when families are spiralling into debt and see no way out, but our team come from a place of experience and, with lots of guidance on how to deal with council tax arrears, repayments and bailiffs, we can help you get your life back. With such vital support pulled out from under many vulnerable families, cases of crippling debt and the consequences of this are getting more and more common. For advice on how to tackle issues related to council tax arrears, don’t hesitate to contact Council Tax Advisors today.

Mansion Tax Scrapped in Favour of New Council Tax Bands for the Rich

Plans for the so-called ‘mansion tax’ have been in place for a while, but now the Liberal Democrats have announced that these plans will be revised to become a higher council tax bill for homes worth more than £2 million. This switch relies somewhat on whether or not there’s another hung parliament after the general election next year, as the Lib Dems would have a much better chance of pushing these plans through if that turns out to be the case. The Treasury minister has described the proposed system as “simple, practical, deliverable and fair.”

The mansion tax could have gone through at part of the 2012 budget, but plans were blocked, and Labour has supported the tax in the past for its potential to raise about £2 billion a year. The new plan for a higher council tax bill for the richest households, then, could receive the same support as a way to secure extra revenue. Previous plans would have required a one per cent annual levy on the value of properties worth over £2 million, but now proposes a “modest additional banded levy on top of council tax for high value properties.”

There are hopes that, among other things, this will bring property taxes in London into line with those in other big cities such as New York, Paris and Frankfurt. Doing things this way will reportedly speed up the process, with the new council tax band able to come into effect soon after the election is over. It won’t affect those households with homes worth less than £2 million, either, but would simply serve to level the playing field a little between the richer and poorer UK residents.

This is particularly necessary when those households at the poorer end of the spectrum are being denied the help they previously benefitted from, with some families now paying council tax for the first time. When families are unable to pay what is demanded, it is common for arrears to build up to a point where debt creeps into every aspect of daily life. That means day-to-day worry, stress and panic about debt, and a visit from bailiffs when arrears are not paid, but there is thankfully always a way out of these sticky situations. For advice and guidance on council tax, bailiffs and other worries, please don’t hesitate to contact Council Tax Advisors.

What Can You Expect From Bailiffs After the Rule Change?

One of the biggest ever changes to how bailiffs operate has now come into effect, with “cowboy” bailiffs outlawed and replaced with new and improved enforcement officers. For those who have experienced a surprise visit from that minority of bailiffs who insist on abusing their powers with intimidation tactics and forceful entry into debtor’s homes, this is reason to celebrate. So, what can you expect from these supposedly new and improved bailiffs?

Firstly, many of the most troubling things bailiffs have been reported as doing, such as coming to homes late at night, seizing vital household items and entering homes where only a child is present, have been formerly banned. This ruling has made people much more aware of the rules the enforcement officers must obey, and the reason many bailiffs were able to get away with unethical practices before was because of the mystery surrounding previous regulations. Now, debtors will know when a bailiff is acting out of turn and will be able to refuse them entry when appropriate.

But it’s not all good news as, along with potentially fairer and more restricted bailiffs, fees have been increased exponentially. This means that a non-refundable £75 will be charged as soon as arrears are passed on to bailiffs, and a further £235 will be added to debts when an enforcement agent comes to visit the home. For people already in debt – the reason for their trouble in the first place – these extra charges will only serve to drive them even further into arrears, adding time that it will take for them to complete repayments and adding untold amounts of stress and worry to their lives.

Despite the government tackling one problem – aggressive and unprofessional bailiffs who use unlawful tactics in order to collect debts, often from vulnerable people – rising fees and reducing aid has resulted in the country’s poorest households entering into a seemingly endless spiral of debt that has no light at the end of the tunnel. For those families who see no way out, however, Council Tax Advisors are here to help with guidance, advice and practical ways in which they can escape their debts and avoid bailiff action hitting them at all.

We understand the complicated nature of council tax, and this is why we’re the best people to come to for advice on debt and arrears. With fees rising and fewer families receiving the aid they so desperately need, it’s more important than ever that they have somewhere to turn.

The Bedroom Tax is a Year Old, and Households Are Still Struggling

The unpopular bedroom tax turned one year old last week, marking the anniversary of a big change in the benefit system that many struggling households are still fighting to overcome. Many changes have been made since he bedroom tax was applied to households, but families with spare rooms in their homes are still fighting to repay debts, falling further and further into arrears and having to seek help from charities and services like Council Tax Advisors on a more regular basis.

The bedroom tax has proven extremely controversial since it was first introduced, with poorer residents turning out to protest the unjust law penalising those with lower incomes and, in one recent case, allowing pricey flats on One Hyde Park to remain completely empty. Families struggling to keep up with council tax payments and other debts without any government safety net after cuts have been forced to fall deeper into arrears, only seeking help when things become a problem too large to tackle alone.

Charity Christians Against Poverty have warned people that four in ten of their new clients have come to them with council tax arrears, with one in ten struggling to pay off a housing benefit overpayment. It is well known that changes to the benefits system and council tax laws end up affecting the most vulnerable households, with further changes only adding to their problems and creating a snowball effect. This then results in consequences such as visits from bailiffs and spiralling debt seemingly impossible to pay off.

Despite a reform of what bailiffs, renamed enforcement officers, can and can’t do when collecting for debtors, a knock on the door still feels like the worst case scenario for those struggling with repayments, and the cycle of fear, worry and helplessness can result in serious ramifications for those most at risk. With the addition of the bedroom text a year ago, and now more fees that have been introduced when enforcement officers have to be called, families nearing the end of the debts are being forced backwards while they search for a way out of their own seemingly inescapable cycle of repayments and debt.

For personal and professional advice on how to overcome these challenges, as well as set up a reasonable repayment plan, Council Tax Advisors can help. Having been through a lot of the same financial struggles, you can trust that our guidance is sound, sympathetic and practical, so get in contact today and finally rid yourself of the arrears that have plagued your life for far too long.

With Rising Fees and Changes to Bailiff Rules, More People Could be Caught Out

Councils around the country are urging residents to be more careful in light of changes to council tax and bailiff rules, coming into effect from Sunday 6th April. New fees that have been introduced will see debtors charged a single, non-refundable amount of £75 as soon as council tax arrears or other debts are given over to bailiffs, who have been renamed enforcement agents, and this means those falling behind on payments need to be aware of changes that could affect them and their ability to make payments.

When enforcement action begins, such as an agent visiting the home in question, then another fee of £235 is added along with a further 7.5% of any debt over the amount of £1,500. These government-set fees, rather than going to the council, are kept instead by the enforcement company, and could pose additional problems to those already struggling to pay fees due to low income or other issues. Despite tough new rules regarding what the new enforcement agents can and can’t do, rising fees are bad news for those poorest families most at risk of falling into debt

Extra fees could result in a spiralling effect that catches people out who are unable to keep up to date with their council tax payments, and adds to the stress already applied by the promise of a visit from bailiffs. With support for those poorest households already cut, leaving many families without the means to pay, the additional worry of extra fees when payments fall behind could be disastrous. Services provided by companies such as Council Tax Advisors, however, can help those negatively affected through the process, which can often be devastating for individuals and families involved.

Councils still maintain that these new enforcement officers are a last resort, and only deployed when debts have become a big enough problem to warrant their involvement, but those who have fallen victim to bad bailiffs in the past may still have reservations about how well the new rules and restrictions will be applied. With hope for change on that front, however, it is the rising fees that are a bigger cause for concern. If households are struggling with payments and fear further debt built up by the fees, then, CTA are here to help with advice and sensible strategies for repayment.

New Laws for Bailiffs to Prevent Aggressive Tactics

When it comes to council tax and bailiffs, positive stories do not usually spring to mind, however the latest news to hit the press is over the government’s new crackdown to stop bailiffs using aggressive tactics; changes that came into force across England and Wales yesterday. Below we have explored the implications of these changes.

What’s changed?

Some of the biggest law alterations include a ban on bailiffs entering homes late at night and from using physical force against debtors. They will also be prevented from entering homes when only children are present, and from taking household essentials such as washing machines, ovens or fridges. All in all, some pretty major changes that serve to protect those who are already facing the stress of debt.

Mandatory training will also be introduced and certification from bailiffs will be required. Part of this training will include recognising vulnerable groups of people, who in turn will also receive greater assistance.

Another key area that will see change is in the stages before bailiffs even enter a property. Now required to provide seven days’ notice before taking possessions, they will also need to inform the court of their likely means of entry, amount of force required to enter and the goods involved before a warrant can be granted.

Landlords will also be affected by the reforms; no longer allowed to use bailiffs to seize property for residential rent debt before taking the matter to court.

Why has this happened?

It’s claimed that around 4 million debts are collected by bailiffs every year in the UK, so there was a growing necessity for change. Citizens Advice Bureau said that the current rules needed to go further and called for greater accountability within the industry.

The changes have come following the Ministry of Justice’s consultation on the debt collection industry in 2013. They are also part of wider reforms to the Tribunals, Courts and Enforcement Act 2007. BBC News legal correspondent, Clive Coleman, explains that the current laws are complex, unclear and confusing. As we know, these complications often lead to bailiffs misrepresenting their power and authority. By clarifying rules, Coleman believes the government can crackdown on the use of aggression and excessive force which lies beyond bailiffs’ means.

Support

Naturally the changes have seen a lot of support from a number of different groups of people, including the Citizens’ Advice Bureau itself. Karen Dyson from the organisation claims that “we are really pleased to see these new rules. It’s a real chance for bailiff companies to review the way their staff are operating. She would also be keen to see a licensing system whereby companies are struck off if bailiffs do not adhere to these terms.  

The reforms have even been encouraged by those more directly involved with bailiffs. Steve Everson from the Civil Enforcement Association, an independently funded association representing bailiffs in England and Wales explained “It’s a tidying up, and a tightening up, of regulations and legislation that has built up over hundreds of years. He also claimed that “the whole thing is designed to get more professionalism within the industry.”

Finally, Justice Secretary Chris Grayling explains that “aggressive bailiff activity is unacceptable and it is high time that the cowboys out there are stopped from giving the rest of this industry a bad name.” She explains that people will still have to face up to their debts, but without the fear of their homes being raided at night, the threat of violence vital household equipment being seized.

What happens now?

Here at Council Tax Advisors we specialise in offering help to those in council tax arrears as well as educating people on their rights and dispelling myths on bailiffs’ powers. As such we are pleased to see some clarification on the rules as well as changes which offer those who need it greater protection.

We’ll be interested to keep an eye on these changes to see whether bailiff companies stick to the stricter rules and how widely the public are made aware of the reforms.

We’re confident the changes will help to reduce bailiff malpractice, however it is still important for people to be aware of their rights should a situation arise. Remember, it is within your rights not to let bailiffs into your home and something we would advise against. If you’re unsure of what to do or you’re being contact by bailiffs speak to us for more information.

Council Tax Advice Needed More Than Ever After Further Cuts to Support

It’s a well known reality that households earning less are being offered little support when it comes to their council tax, and further cuts to support made recently have only exacerbated the problem further. Now, with local authorities across England continuing to reduce the amount of council tax support offered to the poorest residents, a survey has revealed that only 45 councils out of 326 are going to continue to provide equivalent support to the now obsolete Council Tax Benefit system.

That leaves 244 councils now asking households to pay council tax regardless of their financial situation. This amounts to 85% or less of their liability in 69 councils, and 20% in a further 47 councils. Minimum payment has also risen for 56 of the 229 councils that already had a minimum in place, meaning that almost 600,000 of the country’s poorest households are now facing rising council tax payments for the second year running, and a further 70,000 of these will be facing the financial burden without support for the first time.

Chris Goulden, head of poverty research at Joseph Rowntree Foundation, said: “For a second successive year, the country’s poorest families are facing big increases in council tax. This change to the welfare system is largely below the radar but has significant impact for families already struggling to get by on a low income. Paying this tax increase will be beyond most, pushing them into deeper hardship.”

Further cuts to support previously offered to these households is the worst possible news for some UK residents who are most in need, and these external circumstances are likely to cause issues for many families falling behind on their council tax payments. The fear for most when this happens is the potential for a visit from bailiffs, viewed in many cases as the worst case scenario. Of course, as the stereotype suggests, there are many bailiffs who choose to abuse their power and act inappropriately, but seeking advice from Council Tax Advisors on how to deal with a potential visit from bailiffs can help you to take back control.

And as well as offering advice on how best to avoid, and then deal with, bad bailiffs, we can also help you to be free of debt with advice on how to free yourself of debt. Working on mediation between you and your council, we can organise a reasonable repayment plan that will rid you of arrears and the constant fear of facing consequences from falling behind. With Council Tax Advisors, there’s always someone on hand to help those most in need and, with further cuts worsening the problem for so many households, that friendly, personal help is now more necessary than ever.

Are you Behind with your Council Tax?

Being behind on your council tax payments can be a worrying, stressful, and daunting experience, so if you’re struggling to pay your council tax, it’s vital to contact your council as soon as possible. We understand that this can be a stressful and difficult process, which is why we are able to mediate between you and your council to organise affordable and manageable repayment plans.

If you are behind on your council tax payments or a struggling to pay the required amount, it’s important to ensure that you’re on the correct payment plan for you and your family. Since the 1st April this year, Council Tax Benefit has no longer been available; in its place you can apply for Council Tax Reduction. Understanding council tax and whether you’re eligible for a discounted rate can be complicated, but at Council Tax Advisors we are committed to providing you with the simple, clear, and important information you need.

The eligibility for a council tax reduction varies on your circumstances, but if you are the only person in your household responsible for paying council tax you may be eligible. If you live alone, for example, you can be entitled to 25% off your council tax bill. Similarly, if your income is below a certain amount, you may be eligible for a reduction in your council tax. If you live with someone with a disability or you are a carer you may be entitled to a reduced payment plan.

While the amount reduced depends on many factors – such as your household income, if you are responsible for children, and where you live – getting a council tax reduction can be particularly helpful if you are struggling to keep up with your payments.

If you’re struggling to pay your council tax or are dealing with council tax arrears and are confused about the payment reduction plan you are entitled to, contact our experts who are knowledgeable on all aspects of council tax arrears and council tax and so can give you the helpful advice you need. We can advise you on your eligibility for a council tax reduction and, if necessary, mediate between you and your council to negotiate an affordable repayment plan.

Concerned about Potential Reduction in Council Tax Funding?

A recent report has indicated that government cuts passed onto residents could see funding for council tax support reduced by £1 billion over the course of the next two years. According to the report, local authorities have announced their concern that charging low income families with increased council tax or making cuts to local services could incur higher rates of council tax overall.

Findings such as these have been outlined in a report published by the Local Government Association, which demonstrates the potential effects of the government withdrawing national council tax benefits. The government have proposed to implement a local council tax support scheme in place of the national scheme and research has indicated that the total reduction to council tax support funding between 2013/2014 and 2015/2016 could reach a total of £1 billion.

Local authorities have reportedly called for the government to consider full funding for council tax support and the council tax system to be localised.

Reports such as these can be startling, particularly if you are currently struggling to pay your council tax and are looking for help. At Council Tax Advisors we understand that struggling to pay your council tax can be a daunting and stressful experience, which is why we advise you to contact our advisors as soon as possible. If you are struggling to pay your council tax or council tax arrears, it’s important to inform your council immediately as they can put steps in place to help you – if you’d prefer, our experienced advisors can contact your local council on your behalf and offer you advice on the situation going forward.

With the release of reports indicating government and council cuts, it’s important that you seek help if you are struggling with your council tax payments. It’s important that you don’t struggle alone – one of our advisors can give you advice on council tax arrears and can speak to your council on your behalf to set up more affordable payment plans. Even if funding is decreasing, help is still at hand. Simply contact our advisors today to put your mind at rest.

Problems Arise as Council Tax Support is Cut for Poorest Households

Issues with council tax among the least financially well off have always been there, but recent cuts to government funding for council tax support have seemingly worsened the problem for many. Now, with funding cut by 10% with the abolition of the council tax benefit system last year and warnings from officials that the cuts could go much further, things are reaching breaking point for too many families.

Support could fall by 28% by 2016, reports the Express and Star with further issues with missed payments and subsequent visits from bailiffs seemingly inevitable among the most vulnerable. A recent survey suggested that 35% of councils around the country intend to ask for bigger payments from those claiming benefits in 2014/15 and that, the greater the charge for these households, the more “regressive” the tax. Also expected is a rise in non-repayment rates, with more and more low-income families forced to pay a portion of their bill.

Sharon Taylor, chair of the Local Government Association’s finance panel, said: “When Government handed the responsibility for administering council tax support, it cut hundreds of millions in funding for it. The shortfall between the money councils receive to fund council tax support and the money we would need to protect those on low incomes is going to get bigger and is likely to reach £1 billion by 2016.”

Even without these ominous facts and predictions regarding support for the UK’s poorest families, of course, falling into council tax arrears is something that sometimes just happens. No matter the reason, if you are having trouble keeping up with paying your council tax bills and are anxious about some of the possible consequences – such as a visit from bailiffs – then contacting Council Tax Advisors can really help in getting things back on track. We’re here to offer advice, support and helpful tips for remedying the problem.

We can help those who are struggling by both offering guidance and taking active steps towards resolving any issues they are having. We are professionals speaking for personal experience, and so can approach the problem from a uniquely personal angle, and it’s entirely possible for us to mediate between you and your council to organise a reasonable repayment plan. With further cuts to council tax support expected to arrive over the next couple of years, it’s important to know that there is somewhere to go should problems surface, and CTA are always on hand to help those who are struggling.

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