Council tax debt recovery improvements pledged

Vulnerable people who fall behind with council tax payments will have greater protection from aggressive debt enforcement under new plans to improve the way councils collect arrears.

Following concerns from charities, debt advice bodies and local councils, Local Government Minister Rishi Sunak said that the government is moving forward with work to create a fairer, more efficient and compassionate debt recovery system.

Councils currently issue nearly 24 million council tax bills to help fund key local services, from adult social care and children’s services, to refuse collections and leisure facilities. Uncollected tax means less money for services and higher bills for residents who do pay on time.

Possible reforms to the system could include: ensuring affordability assessments are central to council tax collection processes so individual circumstances are taken into account and people are given appropriate time to pay off arrears; improving the links between councils and the debt advice sector; and developing and supporting fairer debt intervention methods.

Sunak said: “Council tax collection is essential to running public services, like caring for those most at risk, collecting bins and keeping our transport networks running. The experiences of some innovative councils show that council tax collection rates can be improved without resorting to the unfair treatment of vulnerable people. That’s why I’m pushing forward work to make the council tax collection system fairer and more efficient – so people are treated with compassion while services get the funds they need.”

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