Government floats ‘fairer, more compassionate’ council tax recovery system

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The government that nominally runs the UK has pledged to create a ‘fairer, more efficient and compassionate debt recovery system’ for council tax.

Apparently moved by concerns from charities, debt advice groups and local authorities, ministers are now busying themselves with improvements.

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) is set to engage with said bodies on changes to the current collection system before ‘considering further reforms later this year’.

According to local government minister Rishi Sunak, the successful collection of council tax is ‘essential to running public services, like caring for those most at risk, collecting bins and keeping our transport networks running’.

Which is why he’s ‘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’.

And we wish him all the best with that.

But what might these touted ‘reforms’ consist of? Handily, the government has provided some ideas:

  • Ensuring affordability assessments are central to collection processes so individual circumstances are taken into account and people are given appropriate time to pay off arrears
  • Improving links between councils and the debt advice sector
  • Developing and supporting fairer debt intervention methods

According to the press release, local authorities issue nearly 24 million council tax bills a year 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.’

Caroline Siarkiewicz, director and debt advice expert at the Money and Pensions Service, said: ‘One third of people seeking debt advice have council tax arrears, so it’s really important that people receive the right guidance and support to manage their finances.

‘We are delighted that the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government has committed to reviewing how local authorities recover unpaid council tax.’

 

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