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Soaring Council Tax Arrears prompts call for new bailiff rules

Outstanding council tax arrears have soared according to new government figures.

Data from he Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities shows arrears at £6 billion as of March 31 this year, a 9% year-on-year rise and an 71% increase since before the pandemic – the total outstanding arrears stood at £3.5 billion in 2019 to 2020.

The StepChange Debt Charity has raised concerns around some collection practices employed by local authorities to recover debt, which allegedly can include charging households for their full yearly council tax bill in a single payment, quickly appointing bailiffs to collect the debt, and in extremely rare circumstances, sending someone to prison for up to three months.


The charity says that it can often be the most financially vulnerable who struggle to keep up with this bill and is calling on councils and Government to take a less punitive approach to collecting council tax debt and to offer more support for those who are struggling to pay.

It claims public support for a softer approach with its own survey suggesting that 69% of people support stopping councils using bailiffs for the recovery of council tax debts for those considered vulnerable, and a similar number backing reduced council tax rates for people on the lowest incomes.

Some 82% of people are cited as opposing existing regulations around Council Tax which can require households to pay their annual council tax bill in full if they miss one month’s payment

A StepChange spokesperson says: “It is unsurprising that council tax arrears have risen as many local authorities have increased their rates by up to 5% to cover rising costs and obligations. Over the past few years, we’ve seen a rise in the number of people seeking help from StepChange who are struggling to keep up with essential bills like council tax, as inflationary increases prove unaffordable for those on lower incomes.

“Due to current council tax collection practices, these increases may mean more households face bailiff action as local authorities look to recoup unpaid debts. Our insights and research have consistently shown that bailiff action can cause increased harm to those in vulnerable positions and can make existing debt problems worse. That’s why we are calling on all parties and the next Government to introduce a statutory regulator for the industry, one which drives up standards and stamps out poor practice.”

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    Obviously the tenants don't think they need to pay it.

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    The next Govt' really needs to get a grip of councils who squander council tax payers money and perhaps personal penalties for the most incompetent and negligent officials. When did a council official last get fired for incompetence? This would mean lower bills for all and help those genuinely struggling.


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