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Council tax collection – Levelling-Up Committee begins inquiry - Monday 6 June

27 May 2022

On Monday 6 June (from 4pm), the Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (LUHC) Committee begins its inquiry into council tax collection in England, examining the practices employed by local authorities to collect council tax arrears.

The LUHC Committee will question representatives from local councils, Citizens’ Advice, Enforcement Conduct Board, Institute of Revenues, Rating and Valuation, and the Civil Enforcement Agency. Full witness details included further below. 

The session is likely to examine issues such as the growth in council tax arrears, support available to vulnerable and low-income residents, the practices of enforcement agencies, and the role of the new Enforcement Conduct Board. 

Written evidence submissions for the inquiry are published here, including submissions from local authorities across England, enforcement agencies and debt charities.  

The inquiry will also look at other issues including whether there should be changes to the legislation on the recovery of council tax arrears, and how local authority council tax support schemes affect council tax collection rates. 

Non-payment of council tax is not a criminal offence. However, statutory regulations – the Council Tax (Administration and Enforcement) Regulations 1992 – allow people to be sent to prison through a civil process (a ‘committal order’) for up to three months for non-payment of council tax. England is the only UK nation where local authorities still use this power. 

The LUHC Committee’s inquiry comes in the wake of the impact of COVID-19 on council tax arrears. In January 2021, Citizen’s Advice estimated over 3.5 million people were behind on their council tax, and that 51% of those weren’t behind before the pandemic. Government figures indicate that at end of March 2021, the total amount of Council Tax outstanding amounted to £4.4 billion.  

The Government has provided support for those receiving council tax support through the hardship fund worth £500 million, most of which would go to people needing council tax relief. In May 2021 a 60-day breathing space for individual debts, including for council tax, was introduced. 

Since April 2013 local authorities in England have had the power to devise their own Council Tax Support schemes for working-age adults. This replaced the previous national scheme of council tax benefit. In the third quarter of 2021/22 nearly four million people claimed council tax support, government figures show

In August 2021 the Government published best practice guidance for local authorities on council tax collection. 

Witnesses

Monday 6 June

At 4pm

  •  Cllr Stephanie Cryan, Cabinet Member for Finance, Democracy & Digital at the London Borough of Southwark
  • Kevin Stewart, Business Unit Leader Revenues and Benefits, Mid Sussex District Council
  • Russell Hamblin-Boone, CEO of the Civil Enforcement Association
  • Paul Whyte, Managing Partner of Whyte & Co Ltd

At 4.45pm 

  • Rachel Beddow, Principal Policy Manager at Citizens’ Advice 
  • Catherine Brown, Chair of the Enforcement Conduct Board
  • Alistair Townsend, National President of the Institute of Revenues, Rating and Valuation

Further information

Image: PA