South Oxfordshire and Vale of White Horse District Councils recovered over £1.2 million in council tax arrears last year thanks to tough enforcement action.
In 2017/18 the councils issued over 5,000 court summonses to people who had repeatedly failed or refused to pay their council tax. Magistrates then granted liability orders against almost 4,000 of those individuals. This meant enforcement action, including the use of bailiffs, could be taken to retrieve the money.
Bailiffs recovered over £900,000, with most of those in arrears eventually paying the money they owed. However, to ensure everyone paid their fair share towards the cost of providing public services, the councils were forced to take further action against 64 people.
More than £140,000 (plus costs) was recovered after 28 people received charging orders, which allows the councils to enforce the sale of their property to retrieve the money.
The councils also took committal to prison action against 36 people, with four receiving suspended prison sentences. This enforcement action recovered almost £173,000.
The councils are also recovering and saving a further £272,000 after 80 people were caught claiming discounts on their council tax that they weren’t entitled to. This resulted in 53 discount cheats being fined and ten prosecuted in court.
Cllr David Dodds, Cabinet Member for Finance at South Oxfordshire District Council said: “Council tax makes a substantial contribution to meeting the costs of our key public services, such as the social services, Police, waste and recycling collections and road repairs. It is absolutely vital that everyone pays their fair share towards these costs and we will not hesitate to take action against anyone who does not.”
Cllr Robert Sharp, Cabinet Member for Finance at Vale of White Horse District Council, said: “If someone is genuinely struggling to pay their council tax then help is always available. If you deliberately avoid the problem then you will make matters much worse in the long term, so you must let us know immediately if there is an issue.”
Council tax court proceedings 2017/18
- Issued 2,528 court summonses to people that had failed to pay their council tax
- Magistrates then granted SODC liability orders for 1,973 of those individuals – this meant SODC could actively pursue them to retrieve the money by using Enforcement Agents and other appropriate methods.
- This resulted in £483,763 council tax arrears being collected by Enforcement Agents.
- However, SODC still had to take committal action against 21 people who, despite repeated requests and appropriate action, refused to pay their council tax.
- As a result of these committal proceedings a further £102,250 was recovered and 2 people received suspended prison sentences.
- SODC were also given permission by the courts to impose charging orders on 17 properties owned by individuals – recovering a further £93,071 in the process. This has continued to be a very effective recovery tool, with settlement preventing the risk of a forced sale on their home.
Council tax fraud 2016/17:
- 42 people were also caught fraudulently claiming discount on their council tax
- This ensured SODC recovered and saved £175,000
- six people were prosecuted in court and 29 were fined