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Local Council Tax Support Schemes - An Independent Review

This was an independent review, commissioned by the Department for Communities and Local Government and written by Eric Ollerenshaw OBE, to look into local authority council tax support schemes.  There is no requirement for DCLG to respond to the report or to take any action on its conclusions.  

Within the report (which is 111 pages long) there are a few points concerning enforcement which are worthy of note.

Among the author's conclusions he recommends on page 14 (para. 5) that recipients of Local Council Tax Support (LCTS) should be able to pay off arrears through a voluntary attachment of benefits agreed with the council, without the need to obtain a liability order.  He further recommends (page 15 paras. 2 & 3) that local authority debt collection practises should be 'proportionate to the debt involved' and that teams within councils should develop a holistic approach to LCTS council tax collection 'identifying and supporting people who are struggling to pay'.

Under a further heading entitled 'Dealing with Arrears' the author maintains that debt from LCTS recipients 'is different to debt from other council tax payers'.

The report finds that the introduction of the new, three stage, standardised fees for enforcement means that 'debts can rapidly increase'.  It goes on to say that such 'high' fees (as compared with what?) are intended to act as a deterrent encouraging people to take immediate action where they have missed council tax payments.  The author clearly regards this as a fault of the system.  However, surely contact at the first, compliance stage may result in some form of resolution, even if it is simply for the enforcement agent to refer the matter back to the council on the basis that there is no way the debtor can pay.  

As I said at the start of this item, there is no obligation on the DCLG to respond to the report as it is an independently produced document and not one produced by the government.  I suspect the report may have trodden, metaphorically speaking, on a number of toes so we shall have to see if any departmental response is forthcoming.