Thousands face Council Tax action in Bassetlaw

Unpaid Council Tax has led to an average of nine households per day in Bassetlaw being taken to court.

Figures obtained via the Freedom of Information Act revealed that Bassetlaw Council took 13,413 households to court between 2008 and 2012 for not paying Council Tax - an average of 3,353 people a year and nine households a day.

The local authority recovered £10.3million in unpaid Council Tax through court action between these years.

A Bassetlaw Council spokesman said court action was a last resort for households that fail to engage with them.

He said: “Each year Bassetlaw Council collects 97.5 per cent of its billed Council Tax for that year and this increases to over 98.5 per cent taking into account payments after the year has finished.”

“Over the last four years the council has pursued around £10million in unpaid Council Tax through the magistrates court, which is the statutory recovery route for unpaid Council Tax.”

“Bassetlaw Council will take most cases to court where there is a failure to respond to the first reminders that are sent out.”

“We appreciate that not everyone can pay on time and many households catch up on their accounts upon receiving a reminder so there is no need for court action.”

“The council believes that the vast majority of households expect us to escalate action where council tax falls into arrears and we deal with this responsibility fairly.”

“It is the cases that fail to engage with us or those who set up arrangements with limited intention to pay that are likely to end up in court.”

Steve Saddington, director of Bassetlaw Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB), said welfare benefits account for a third of the cases the CAB deals with.

“In the last 18 months this has grown by 25 per cent and that is down to all the benefit changes,” he said.

“We are expecting it to increase still because of the changes to Council Tax in relation to the number of people having to pay it.”

“The changes mean those on very limited incomes will have to pay it and a percentage of these people will end up in arrears.”

The CAB works in partnership with the council to help those who have come to them with arrears problems.

“When people come to us we will liaise with the council and once we are involved the council will put any court action on hold,” added Steve.

“We will help them with budgeting and how to budget money and help them with a repayment plan.”

The council and the CAB urge any households, particularly those with new Council Tax liability, to seek support.