Anyone who has fallen into council tax arrears will know that it is an unpleasant experience, with the threat of a liability order, bailiff action and even imprisonment among the penalties open to those who default on their repayments.
However, to those who think that legal action is inevitable once you fall into council tax arrears, the cases of hundreds of Leicester residents will offer considerable hope that it is never too late to repay unpaid council tax before the threat of court proceedings become a reality.
According to Leicester City Council, 450 people have cleared their council tax arrears in time for legal action against them to be avoided.
They had previously issued summonses to 3,500 people either unable or unwilling to pay a combined total of £2.68 million in council tax due to the authority and asked magistrates to grant liability orders allowing the council to begin collection proceedings, and recover court costs of up to £70.
Approximately 40 of the 3,500 turned up to the court this week and were met by council officers, still willing to arrange repayments without them having to appear in the courtroom.
Only a small minority decided to challenge the granting of a liability order and they did so, going before the magistrates on the grounds that they simply did not have the money to pay.
Council head of benefits and revenues Caroline Jackson disclosed that in addition to the 450 people who had settled their debt, a further 400 had made arrangements to pay.
“That’s about a third of the total number and that is a good result for us,” she explained.
She added that other people in arrears are still able to pay up and insisted that it is generally only those who tend to ignore their bills who become the subject of enforcement action.
“It’s not too late for the others to get in touch.
“If people don’t, they may find an attachment to their benefits or wages.
“Very few will go through our bailiff process. They tend to be the people who look up only when there is a knock at the door.”
There was support outside the court for those facing legal action from the Leicestershire Against Cuts group, who urged them to argue their case and claimed that cuts to benefits are to blame for leaving people in this predicament.
If you are struggling to pay your council tax, contact Council Tax Advisors today for friendly, independent advice. We can help you work out an affordable repayment plan to remove any possible threat of legal action over unpaid council tax.