The pandemic has seen people face hardship and struggle to meet their household costs, one of which being Council Tax.
At Citizens Advice in West Sussex (North, South, East), we are seeing a rise in cases of Council Tax arrears, as it becomes one of the most common debts for our clients. Most recently we have seen 31% of these cases involving bailiff enforcement, particularly increasing in June. This is a reflection of the end of the eviction ban.
Where local authorities and debt advice agencies work closely together, collection processes can be improved. This leads to more early intervention to support people struggling with payments, helps prevent further charges and reduces both collection costs and demand on local public services.
The Council Tax Protocol was developed in partnership with the Local Government Association and offers practical steps aimed at preventing people from getting into debt in the first place and outlines how to ensure enforcement agents act within the law.
As a charity, we are continuing to work with councils in order to get many more committed to better debt collection practices.
Mid Sussex District Council is signed up to the national Citizens Advice Good Practice Protocol, a public commitment to the principles of fairness, partnership working and transparency in local authority debt collection.
If you need help with your Council Tax, we have put together some top tips to help you reduce your costs.
1. Check who else is in the household
Make sure the council are fully aware of all members in your household, as you may be entitled to a lower payment.
2. Check your Council Tax band is correct
3. Check if you’re getting all of the relevant discounts
Ensure you’re receiving all relevant discounts which will reduce the Council Tax you pay. These include living alone, no-one else in your home is as an adult, having a severe mental impairment (SMI) and if you are a full-time student.
4. Apply for Council Tax Reduction
You could be eligible if you’re on a low income or claim benefits. Your bill could be reduced by up to 100%. You can apply if you own your home, rent, are unemployed or working.
5. Apply for a discretionary Council Tax support if you cannot afford it
This is in addition to Council Tax Reduction. Your local authority has the power to reduce or cancel your Council Tax bill, even if you’re not exempt from paying or entitled to a discount or reduction.
6. Suggest to your local council if they can spread payments over 12 months rather than 10 months
This will help reduce the amount you’re asked to pay on each bill. You can ask your council to set this up for you.
7. Do you get the guarantee part of Pension Credit?
If you’re a pensioner and either you or your partner get the guarantee part of Pension Credit, you are entitled to a full reduction on your Council Tax. The local authority will ignore both your income and your capital.
If you are struggling with a problem regarding Council Tax, for help contact us