Friday 15 November 2019
Earlier in the year we submitted a Freedom of Information request to local councils across England to ask about how they collect council tax arrears.
Today we published the national findings of this research including that last year, for every £1 referred to bailiffs for collection, councils received just 27p in return.
We know council tax debt is important to many local Citizens Advice and their relationship with their local authority. So we have produced a support pack to help you take action locally – this also includes a template press release.
Councils get just 27p from every £1 collected by bailiffs – and it’s pushing households into debt
The Sun featured our call on councils to stop using bailiffs to collect debts over fears this “outdated” regulation is pushing struggling families deeper into debt.
Gillian Guy, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice, said: “Council tax debt is now worryingly common but the collection system is broken.
“It doesn’t work for the people who are driven further into debt and it doesn’t work for councils or the taxpayer who are seeing millions of pounds go to waste each year.”
Council tax collection system is broken
Our research, showing households struggling to pay their council tax are being pushed into further debt as outdated regulations see councils resort to bailiffs to collect arrears, continues to get nationwide coverage.
The story featured on Sky News bulletins, BBC Radio 4’s News Briefing and LBC.
Principal Policy Manager, Joe Lane, told LBC that council tax arrears is the most common debt problem dealt with by Citizens Advice.
He said: “The regulations set by central government push councils into using inefficient methods of collection… and they’re adding on costs which push people further into debt.”
He added: “We want to see the next government look at those regulations and amend them to help councils collect debt in a more flexible way.”
How to spot Black Friday scams
Daily Mail, 13/11/2019, Grace Gausden
Our advice on how to avoid being scammed this Black Friday and Cyber Monday has featured in the Daily Mail.
The paper quoted Citizens Advice figures which show more than 13,000 people reported issues with online marketplaces in 2017, being hit by an average loss of £215, suggesting that an increasing number of customers are being duped online.
It also revealed that calls about problems with purchases on online marketplaces have increased by 35 per cent over the past four years.
The Mail also advised customers worried that something they’ve seen online might be a scam, to seek help from a Citizens Advice Scams Action adviser by calling 0300 330 3003.
Households could be billed twice for green tax after suppliers go bust
Yahoo Finance, 10/11/2019, August Graham
Our call for energy supply firms to pay their Renewable Obligations – so-called ‘green taxes’ – more regularly in order to protect consumers if a company goes out of business, has been highlighted by a financial website in a feature on the issue.
Yahoo Finance said: “Consumer champions Citizens Advice has highlighted the issues in the past. Chief executive Gillian Guy in June called on the Government to force suppliers to pay the tax more regularly, limiting the impact when one goes bust.”
Outsourcing of UK civil enforcement work causes concern
Financial Times, 10/11/2019, Gill Plimmer
Our research, published earlier this year, which showed a sharp rise in people seeking help with “bailiff-related issues”, and vulnerable consumers targeted by increasingly aggressive debt collection methods, has been used by the Financial Times.
The number of reported problems with bailiffs exceeded 103,000 in the 12 months to March 31 this year – a 16 per cent increase on the previous year – which Citizens Advice said was driven by “a rise in bailiffs not following the rules around rights of entry”.
Our figures showed nearly one in six of the incidents involved bailiffs “threatening to break in, or unlawfully doing so”, a rise of 13 per cent on the previous year.
Call to crack down on energy broker rip-offs which could cause small businesses to go bust
Mail on Sunday, 10/11/2019, p.107, Marc Shoffman
Our report Closing the Protection Gap, which calls for greater protections for microbusinesses – including a shake up of the way energy brokers are regulated – has featured in a substantial article in the Mail on Sunday.
Gillian Guy said: “The majority of brokers provide a trusted and valuable service. However, our evidence shows a minority exploit microbusinesses.
“We see cases of brokers employing aggressive sales tactics and not being transparent about fees.”
She added: “We’ve seen this lead to debt and disconnection. It ultimately increases the risk of business failure.”
Citizens Advice wants better regulation and, at a minimum, a mandatory code of practice.
In other news
Half of disability benefits appeals won in tribunal court.
Top UK firms ‘still a long way’ from hitting targets for women in senior roles.
Amazon and eBay ‘must block illicit nitrous oxide sales’.