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Government calls for views to improve council tax debt recovery 9 October 2015

The Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) is calling for views on how to improve the efficiency of council tax collection.

The purpose of the consultation is to seek views on the government’s proposals to facilitate improvements in the collection and enforcement process in business rates and council tax.

The consultation is aimed at local authorities, other government departments, businesses and any other interested party.
As part of the Better Business Compliance Cabinet programme, Manchester City Council, Salford City Council, HMRC and the Cabinet Office have cooperated in a trial to improve collection and efficiency.

The results of this trial have been considered in the proposals on improving the collection procedure for council tax. The DCLG has also proposed several improvements to the appeals, avoidance and collection aspects of the business rates system. These are being taken forward separately.

Barrie Minney, senior enforcement manager at Brighton & Hover City Council and chairman of the Local Authority Civil Enforcement Forum, told CT: “Well, this announcement on October 8 certainly caught most of us out. We had no inkling DCLG was about to issue the consultation.”

Initial responses from local authorities have been enthusiastic.

Mark Fearn, project lead at Walsall Council, told CT: “It could be our one chance, as LACEF members, to ask for what we really want.

“Do others think that it would be a good idea for LACEF members to draw up a definitive list of new powers that we would like, so all councils can be singing from the same hymn sheet?”

Trevor Pinnegar, project manager at Nottingham City Council, told CT: “Obviously we need as many councils to send a positive response to this. I suggest we also use it to raise the issue of having access to DWP records to trace absconders.

“All this needs is a change to admin and enforcement regulations in line with Para 15, schedule 2. Local Government Finance Act (LGFA) 1992. I put together a paper some time ago that never progressed on this subject. Central government actually trying to help us – never thought I’d see the day!”

Minney added: “I agree that a wish list from those of us in LACEF, working for more than 220 local authorities, is a good idea. My two would be:

“1. Make landlords liable. In Brighton & Hove we have a large number of students and an even greater number of short term lets. I wrote to my MP years ago suggesting that a simple way to improve council tax collection was to make landlords liable.

“Too many absentee landlords get an income but put nothing back into the local economy. Central government’s response was to say that residents pay council tax in the interests of democracy.

“2. My personal favourite; liability orders should be registered as a County Court Judgment (CCJ). It’s the biggest question we get – ‘will this affect my credit rating?”

By Marcel LeGouais



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