Citizens Advice has responded to the government’s pilot scheme to recover unpaid council tax through deductions. It is being rolled out from Monday 8 July to almost 30 local authorities in England.
Gillian Guy, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice, said:
“Our research shows harsh collection methods added half a billion pounds in fees to people’s council tax debts in 2016/17 alone.
“It’s encouraging to see local authorities trying to reduce bailiff use but any collections must be affordable and should not leave people on low incomes with too little to live on.
“The government needs to fundamentally reform the regulations governing how local authorities collect debts and give them more flexibility. People should not be charged a full year’s bill after a single monthly payment is missed or threatened with imprisonment.”
Council tax arrears is the most common debt problem Citizens Advice helps people with.
Last year, our local services around England and Wales helped more than 96,000 people struggling to make their council tax payments.
On average Citizens Advice clients in council tax debt have just £14 a month disposable income.
The national charity estimates over £560 million in fees were added to people’s council tax debt in 2016/17 alone. This includes £300 million of bailiff fees which is particularly concerning as some of these fees have to be paid by the person in debt before any council tax arrears can be recovered by the local authority. That is equivalent to adding nearly £278 to every households’ debt that was in council tax arrears.