Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Something untoward

Castle Point Council: Misleading the public?
Leaving aside the offensive tone of the Echo which calls those in council tax arrears "council tax dodgers", there is something a little fishy about this report.
Bailiffs are being scrapped in place of new enforcement agents as part of major changes being bought in for the way debts are collected from April 6. Under new Government regulations, enforcement agents will charge a debtor £75 on receiving a court order from the council to chase owed tax. They will then try to contact the person to either get payment in full or set up a payment arrangement. If they are unsuccessful and agents have to visit the debtor they will incur a further £235.
Assuming this procedure is correct, this effectively incentivises phantom visits. But we have only Castle Point Council's word for it since the Echo has clearly not done any work to verify these claims. I think the councils are lying, and local media is slavishly repeating these lies without checking the facts.

I can't find anything at all that says these changes to the law apply to council tax. The measures are part of a wider package of reforms which will implement Part 3 of the Tribunals, Courts & Enforcement Act 2007. But I can see no changes to The Council Tax (Administration and Enforcement) Regulations 1992.

Even the good people at the Bailiff Help Forum seem in the dark on this one.  There is nothing we can see that repeals the present council tax regulation.  As you can see form the thread, this is not the first such report of its type.  I believe this to be part of a concerted campaign by councils to deceive the public.  They've been caught out on their current grubby little scam and now there is no profit in it, so now they shift the goalposts.

I am happy to test this in court this year if needs be.  If what I suspect is true, they cannot be allowed to get away with it. I have written to the editor of the Echo and Castle Point Council. We shall see what they say.

UPDATE: According to Jason Bailey at DWB, The £75 is a statutory fee. There is no longer the £42.50 fee. "The £75/£235 will most probably in the long term be retained by the council as it will be doing the work and sending the statutory notices. For he most part councils want to retain the £235 fee as well and collect what can be collected in a few visits."

In other words, if there is a revenue stream from punishing the poor, the council wants it.  In some respects, this is a win in that private goon squads like Rundle & Co will take a hit, but it is now much more expensive if you can't afford your council tax.

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