May 19 2013 Latest news:
Lee-Ann Richards, Reporter
Thursday, January 10, 2013
Up to 28 people a day were taken to court last year for failing to pay their council tax, according to new figures.
The figures, which were revealed from a Freedom of Information request shows that Havering Council took 10,235 people to court last year for council tax arrears, but that was an improvement on the previous year, when 12,853 people were prosecuted.
Miles Picknell, the centre manager of debt counselling charity, Christians Against Poverty in Cranham, said: “These figures are not surprising. We see a lot of people who have debt problems and many of them do find council tax a problem because it is so expensive.”
The unpaid council tax costs the council more than £1million to pursue through the courts.
Residents who fall behind in paying their council tax, in the first instance are normally sent a reminder notice.
If the debt is still unpaid, a further final notice is issued.
As a last resort a summons to court is issued where a liability order is granted.
This allows the council to recoup the money either from their earnings or their benefit. Bailiffs can also be used to recover the money owed and the council can prosecute the debtor and apply for their committal to prison for up to three months.
Cllr Michael White, leader of the council, said: “We will pursue anyone who owes us Council tax, through the courts if necessary, if the tax remains unpaid.
“We have a team who target people with longstanding debt which has seen these debts reduced and we have also run specific campaigns to target people who fraudulently claim single person discount.
“Our council tax collection rate last year was 97 per cent and we are among the top half of all London boroughs for the high level collected.”