The Debt Counsellors Charitable Trust has today published new research which identifies good practice for Local Councils when collecting Council Tax debts. Sevan local councils agreed to be interviewed for the report and based on these interviews, it details recommendations that would allow the collection of council tax in a more responsible, fair and consumer focused way. These include better understanding those who are vulnerable, for example due to mental illness or financial difficulties.

Commenting on the research, Nick Pearson, Chief Executive of The Debt Counsellors said “Over 90% of our clients have Council Tax Arrears. As a national charity, we see all too many examples of poor practice in local council collections and particularly amongst the bailiffs they use to collect unpaid council tax. There are a however some examples of good practice and I hope this research will assist in raising standards across all local councils.”

Claire Whyley, the report’s author, said, ‘Local authorities are collecting debts from some of the most vulnerable people in our society and yet they are not required to follow the strict rules for debt collection that other creditors must adhere to. This leaves people who are already struggling at serious risk of debt collection practices that severely exacerbate their financial difficulties, resulting in longer-term and more deeply entrenched hardship. The examples of good practice that are identified in this report show that it is possible to collect council tax arrears in a sensitive and constructive way, creating a win: win situation for local authorities and their residents.

Pearson continued “I would like to thank Claire Whyley and the local authorities that participated in the research. The Debt Counsellors is a supporter of ‘Taking Control, the campaign for bailiff’s reform’ and fully supports their agenda for changes in bailiff’s regulation. Despite the enforcement law reforms in 2014 many, perhaps most, local authorities still seem to allow the bailiffs they employ to run roughshod over the vulnerable, especially those people who cannot afford to pay their council tax due to their low income. If implemented by all councils, the recommendations outlined in the research would greatly help them improve their collections practices.”

Pearson concluded by saying that “Since the charity went live in October 2014, The Debt Counsellors has specialised in assisting the most vulnerable and financially excluded clients. This report is published in the very week when the charity closes its doors for good due to lack of funding.”

The report can be found here.