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Enforcement industry calls for community service for council tax dodgers

18 October 2018

Enforcement industry calls for community service for council tax dodgers

Community service should replace the sanction of imprisonment for non-payment of Council Tax, according to the Civil Enforcement Association (CIVEA).

The industry proposal is in response to a consultation by Financial Secretary, Mark Drakeford AM, which calls for a ban on imprisonment for anyone who does not pay their Council Tax.

CIVEA, which represents the majority of firms employing enforcement agents, has met with officials in the Welsh Government to make a case for retaining a fair and proportionate sanction in the form of community service. So far Mr Drakeford has declined to support the proposal, opting instead for a policy that has no coercive measures to ensure persistent offenders do not abuse the tax system.

Based on commercial data from enforcement firms operating in Wales, in 2016/17 there were an estimated 341 arrest warrants issued by local authorities with 20 people imprisoned. The value in outstanding debt against the arrest warrants was £586,774. According to the enforcement industry, the loss of revenue to Welsh local authorities would far exceed this figure if the government imposed a ban on imprisonment without putting in place alternative sanctions.

Russell Hamblin-Boone, chief executive of CIVEA, said:

“A non-custodial sentence would reduce the burden on the public purse and act as a deterrent to others who refuse to pay their council tax. Anyone given a community service sentence would be penalised for not paying their council tax, while at the same time making an alternative contribution to their local community.  This would apply to a small but hard core who willingly refuse to pay their tax. We do not envisage that this sanction would apply to those identified as vulnerable and with no means to meet their debts”.

Notes for editors:

The Civil Enforcement Association (CIVEA) is the principal trade association representing civil enforcement agencies operating in England and Wales.

Enforcement agents (formerly known as bailiffs) are regulated by the Tribunals Courts and Enforcement Act 2007, Schedule 12 and the Taking Control of Goods Regulations 2013.

The Welsh Government published a consultation paper with a deadline of 4 September https://beta.gov.wales/removal-sanction-imprisonment-non-payment-council-tax https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/695833/one-year-review-bailiff-reform-web.pdf

The first review of those reforms showed positive progress since our changes. This includes better awareness around debtor rights and how to complain, more clarity for debtors about the fees that can be charged, the processes that should be followed, and where to go for advice.

It also found the overall effectiveness of proper enforcement has improved, with a greater proportion of debts now being successfully enforced without need to an agent to visit a property.

In light of lingering concerns over aggressive behaviour by minority of bailiffs, the Ministry will be publishing a Call for Evidence.