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Council debt collection tactics push households further into the red

Joanna Faith
Written By:
Joanna Faith

Councils should stop sending bailiffs to people who have fallen behind on their council tax payments as it pushes struggling households further into debt, according to Citizens Advice.

The charity said the “outdated regulations” governing the collection of council tax in England are “ineffective” and “expensive” as councils receive just 27p for every £1 collected by bailiffs.

It found bailiffs cost 53p for every £1 they recovered and most of these costs are paid by people in financial difficulty.

Gillian Guy, chief executive of Citizens Advice, said: “Council tax debt is now worryingly common but the collection system is broken. It doesn’t work for the people who are driven further into debt and it doesn’t work for councils or the taxpayer who are seeing millions of pounds go to waste each year.”

Currently, when people miss a single council tax payment they automatically became liable for the full year’s bill.

The charity is calling for the next government to make it easier for councils to improve collection practices.

It wants to see an end to people being asked to pay their entire annual bill if they miss one monthly payment and councils given more powers to collect debt without getting a court order first.

Guy said: “The next government has a real opportunity to fix the outdated regulations that push councils to use ineffective collection practices and protect people from spiralling further into debt when they fall behind on their council tax.

“It must give councils the powers to take a more flexible approach to collecting arrears and put an end to punitive processes such as charging a full year’s bill after a single payment is missed.”