B&NES Council has moved a step closer to taking a more ethical approach to the collection of Council Tax, following a motion from Labour councillors at a recent council meeting.
However, the Conservative Group on B&NES Council rejected proposals to agree in principle that the local authority should stop using bailiffs to collect money from residents in arrears.
In moving the motion, Deputy Leader of B&NES Labour Group, Cllr Joe Rayment (Labour, Twerton) said: “It is important that residents pay their Council Tax. We need to be able to pay for the vital services that we all rely on. Those who can pay, must pay.
“However, the reality is that for many people, circumstances mean that they miss payments for Council Tax. Sometimes there is just not enough money to pay for everything and people are forced to choose whether to pay their rent, pay their utility bills, pay for food, or pay their Council Tax.”
“What many people don’t realise is that Councils, instead of leading by example, are often the most zealous and unsympathetic of creditors in collecting arrears. While payday lenders have cleaned up their act, Council debt collection practices remain in the dark ages.
“People who are already facing financial hardship find that their ability to pay in instalments is withdrawn.
“After that, they can be stung by court fees and costs for bailiffs visits. Action escalates far more quickly and far more aggressively than most people realise.
“When you hear heart-breaking cases of the impact of the additional fees and costs of court action and bailiffs on people already experiencing extreme financial hardship, it is right that B&NES Council has agreed to review its approach to debt collection.
“However, Labour will continue to press the Council to stop using bailiffs to collect arrears.”
Last year in Bath & North East Somerset, 10,000 people received a summons to court due to not paying their Council Tax.