Your Council Tax bill shows how much you need to pay and when your payments are due. You must pay in accordance with the bill and if you pay by post or through the bank you should allow extra time for your payment to reach us.
If you do not pay your instalments when they fall due, you will receive a reminder notice telling you to bring your account up to date. If you are having genuine difficulty in making your payments you should contact the Revenues and Benefits department straight away and we will do our best to help you.
Do not ignore the reminder notice because if we have to continue with recovery action against you, you may have to pay additional costs.
Only two reminder notices are sent in any year so you will not receive one for each month. If your account becomes overdue for a third time a final notice will be issued.
If you do not pay the amount stated on the reminder by the due date, or you have already had two reminders, you will receive a final notice which takes away your right to pay by instalments. If you do not pay the amount outstanding or make an acceptable payment arrangement with us to clear the balance of your account, we will continue with recovery action.
If after the issue of a final notice FULL payment is not received or an acceptable payment arrangement made, you will next receive a Magistrates court summons. This incurs costs of £52.50 for the issue of the summons, which will be added to your account.
If you do not pay the balance in full by the court hearing date, as stated on the summons, a Liability Order will normally be issued against you by the Magistrates. A further £40.00 will then be added to your account for the issue of this order.
You have the right to appear at the hearing and explain to the Magistrates why a Liability Order should not be issued against you.
At this stage the Magistrates can only look at whether the sum is due. They cannot make an order for payment. Even at this stage of recovery we will still try to come to an arrangement for you to pay.
Once a Liability order has been granted by the Magistrates, we will notify you in writing. You will be asked to contact us immediately to discuss your account where every effort will be made to reach a payment arrangement to pay the outstanding sum. If this is not possible, or you fail to keep an agreed payment arrangement we will continue with recovery action.
A Liability order gives us the right to recover the debt from you in a number of ways, including:-
- deductions direct from your earnings or Income Support/Job Seekers Allowance
- passing your account to the Council's appointed enforcement agent
- commencing bankruptcy proceedings against you
- where you own your property, obtaining a charging order
Attachment to earnings
We may ask your employer to deduct the Council Tax you owe from your salary and send it directly to us. The amounts to be deducted will depend on your earnings and the deductions will continue until you have paid in full the amount you owe.
By law, your employer must comply with the Attachment of Earnings order, and once the order has been issued, we will not withdraw the order until your debt is cleared, even if you wish to make an alternative payment arrangement with us.
Deductions from Income Support/Job Seekers allowance
If you are receiving the above allowances we can apply to the Department of Works & Pensions (DWP) for amounts to be taken from your Income Support/Job Seekers Allowance and to be paid direct to us.
Enforcement agent action
If we are unable to make a suitable payment arrangement with you, or collect your Council Tax direct from your earnings or Income Support/Job Seekers Allowance we may pass the collection of your account to our appointed enforcement agent. Once this action is taken you will have to contact the enforcement agent direct to discuss payment of your account.
As well as the outstanding Council Tax you owe and court costs which will have been incurred, the enforcement agent will add his statutory fees to your account, further increasing your debt. If you do not pay the amount you owe in full to the enforcement agent, they may remove your goods and sell them at public auction to clear your debt.
If, despite all recovery action, you still do not pay the Council Tax you owe and we are still unable to collect it from you, we may apply once again to the Magistrate's court for you to be issued with a Means Enquiry Summons, when the Council's application will be for an order to commit you to prison. At this stage of recovery you are advised to consult a solicitor or the Citizens Advice Bureau.
If you do not pay the amount shown on this summons, prior to this hearing date, you must attend the court hearing in person or risk being arrested by the police. At this court hearing your income and outgoings will be assessed to determine whether the reason you have not paid is due to your Wilful Refusal or Culpable Neglect. At this hearing the Magistrates can issue an order committing you to prison.
What happens if I don't attend court?
If you fail to attend the hearing, as stated above, the Magistrates may issue a warrant for your immediate arrest. You may then be arrested and held in custody to wait for another court hearing. You will appreciate that it is imperative that you contact us as soon as possible if your Council Tax account falls into arrears. The sooner we hear from you, the longer we have to make an arrangement for payment with you and the less likely you will incur further costs on your account.