More advice leads to 50% fewer council tax debt cases being sent to Enforcement Agents

Published: Wednesday, 11th May 2016

Oxford City Council is pleased to have halved the number of council tax cases issued to Enforcement Agents in 2015-16. This was also the lowest figure registered in each of the preceding three years.

The Council is working closely with advice agencies within the City to help people who are struggling to pay their council tax bills, by signing up to the CAB (Citizen’s Advice Bureau) “Collection of Council Tax Arrears Good Practice Protocol”.

The Council’s revenues team is working with customers to learn the reasons why they have missed Council Tax payments so that they can provide appropriate advice and support where necessary. This approach also ensures that vulnerable customers are identified as early as possible and treated sympathetically. The team are now identifying customers and getting them the right kind of support to resolve their issues, which can result in them becoming prompt payers of their Council Tax. This is a better approach for both the customer and the Council than the more traditional approach of sending debts to external Enforcement Agents (formerly known as bailiffs) to collect. However, where people refuse to engage with the Council’s revenues team or to pay their Council Tax then Enforcement Agents will still be used.

Councillor Susan Brown said “I am really pleased that we have been greatly able to reduce the number of times we have used enforcement in order to collect council tax. It is better for everyone if we can ensure that people have an understanding of the options available to them if they are struggling to pay and the implications of continued non-payment. This has helped reduce the number of complaints received relating to recovery activity. I would particularly like to thank the advice agencies across the city whose work supporting people has been invaluable.”

Gill Tishler, director of CAB Oxford commented:  “We are delighted that the City Council has been open to working with us to review current practice in Council Tax arrears collection against the good practice protocol. We also appreciate the on-going opportunities for dialogue in the interests of a better service for our clients and the Council’s responsiveness to our suggestions.’

The new approach has resulted in about 50% fewer cases being sent to Enforcement Agents (2535) in 2015-16 compared to the previous year (5051), saving customers from additional fees that are imposed when this happens, while still maintaining overall collection levels.

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