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Why are we all paying more than we should for Council Tax?

A recent survey published by Experian showed that an additional £28 million could have been collected from people with sufficient funds to pay their Council Tax bill. We are not talking about individuals on state benefits here, these were people with sufficient income to make the payment.

What would £28million bring to an area? Keeping elderly care a priority, making key repairs to a school, building a new school, alleviating traffic congestion, providing new road surfaces or flood defences, the list is endless.

Individual Councils sometimes make up their own rules on how to collect council tax or indeed any other debts. They tend to have write off procedures for debts that are too easy. The use of external companies to collect debts is against union regulations or the swapping of information between say housing and council tax departments is discouraged.

In times of recession like we are in now, everyone paying their way into the local purse should be more important that at any other time.

Councils seem out of touch with large volumes of their debtors but the budget allocation is all wrong when it comes to tracing a new address for them. Currently there appears to be no trace budget. How can a debtor be traced without a budget to locate them? Therefore how can money be generated from the collection in order to pay for the trace – and indeed for the Council Tax debt to be paid – when you can’t even locate the debtor. The trace is the start of the process and therefore this means that there is no hope of a collection if you can’t find the debtor!

A structured approach to achieving the maximum realistically possible collection percentage should be better encouraged. Using a no success/no fee tracing agent to identify a new address for a debtor is paramount. Accompanied to that where the agent has provided an incorrect new address there should be no charge to the Council. Similarly, the collection letters issued by a Council should be commercially sourced as should the personnel involved. Proactive telephoning at times when a person is likely to be at home is required. Doing things the way they have always been done is not an option.

Every time a debt is not collected or is written off means increased bills for you and me and less services are provided. The pot of money a Council has to spend gets lower and lower. Find the right systems and people