This page contains information relating to the local authority's recovery procedure. If you are experiencing financial difficulties or changes to your circumstances please contact us without delay.
Council Tax Arrears
Can we reduce your bill?
If you're in receipt of DWP benefits and not claiming Council Tax Support, visit our Council Tax page.
Check if you are entitled to any Council Tax discounts or exemptions by visiting our discounts and exemption page.
Sign up to Open Portal where you can see your account and current bill status set up to pay via direct debit, make an application for benefits and more.
If you’re currently experiencing financial hardship you may wish to contact one of the following non-profit/non-judgemental organisations who may be able to provide free confidential and impartial advice, they may discuss the debt respite scheme (breathing space).
Financial Statement Form
If you’re currently in arrears or financial difficulty please complete our financial statement form.
What happens if you do not pay your Council tax?
If you do not pay as per your billing date you will receive a reminder notice advising you must bring your account up to date within 14 days. If you pay within the 14 day period and fall behind again you will receive a second reminder notice. A maximum of 2 reminder notices will be issued within the financial year.
If you don’t pay within 14 days of the reminder a final notice will be issued losing your rights to pay by instalments and your full charge for the year must be paid immediately.
If the account is not paid as per the final notice a Court Summons will be issued and you will incur court costs at this stage.
What happens if you receive a Court Summons?
If you are unable to pay the balance in full you will be offered a special payment arrangement within your Summons, if you are unable to pay this further recovery action may be taken.
You should complete a financial circumstances form on receipt of the Summons to enable us to further review your circumstances.
Summons for non-payment of Council Tax - Frequently asked questions
Why have I been summonsed?
Because the Council has not received the amounts that you were asked to pay on the bill, reminder and final notice that were sent to you.
What if I don’t agree that I owe the amount shown on the summons?
If you believe you are not liable for the amount shown on the summons or that the amount shown is incorrect, you must contact the Council as soon as possible before the date of the Court.
If it is possible to resolve any disagreement before the Court hearing this will save time and inconvenience for both you and the Court.
What happens if I pay the outstanding amount in full before the date I am due to appear in Court?
The Court proceedings will be stopped if you pay in full, including the summons costs, and the Council receives your payment before the date of the Court.
If the costs are not paid, the Council will still apply for a Liability Order for any balance outstanding including costs. The summons will not be withdrawn if you only make part payment or payment without costs.
What should I do if I cannot afford to pay in full?
If you cannot pay in full now, you will have been provided a payment arrangement with this summons which will clear the balance within the financial year, if you are unable to make payments as per this arrangement you should complete the Financial Statement form which can be found on the Council’s website as soon as possible.
The Court hearing will still take place and the Council will apply for a Liability Order unless the balance is paid in full. Costs will still be incurred and any payment arrangement will be for the full amount including all costs. Failure to pay will result in further action being taken.
Do I have to attend Court on the date shown?
No. You are only required to attend court if you wish to dispute the granting of the Liability Order and believe you have a valid defence in law to do so.
You have a legal right to attend but the court will not consider any proposals for payment. The purpose of the hearing is to consider the actual liability for payment of the Council Tax and not your ability to pay. If you do attend the hearing, please bring the summons with you.
What will happen at the Magistrate’s Court?
If the magistrate decides that the Council Tax has been legally demanded and that you have not paid the amount due a Liability Order will be granted.
What is a Liability Order?
A Liability Order is a legal document which provides the Council with a number of options to collect your outstanding Council Tax, including authority to:
- Ask for details of your financial circumstances which, if not provided could result in you being fined.
- Deduct the amount payable from your earnings.
- Deduct the amount payable from your Income Support, Job Seekers Allowance or Employment Support Allowance, Universal Credit.
- Place collection in the hands of the Council’s Civil Enforcement Agents. Enforcement Agents are legally entitled to remove and sell your goods at public auction. You will also have to pay any fees they have incurred.
- Apply to the County Court for a charging order on your property that enables the Council to force its sale or reclaim your Council Tax from the proceeds of any future sale, providing sufficient funds are available. Please note that a debt can only be charged to a property if you own the property.
There are other options available to the Council, including commencing bankruptcy or liquidation proceedings and ultimately, you could be sent to prison.
What is a Valid Defence?
A liability order will not be granted if there is a valid defence against the request such as;
- The Council Tax/Business Rates has not been probably set
- The property is not entered in the Valuation List
- The total amount of the summons has been paid in full and a receipt is available and evidence provided
- Bills and reminders have not been sent (this is not the same as not being received)
- You are exempt from payment of Council Tax/Business Rates and can provide evidence
- The bill you have received is incorrect as you are not the person who is liable to pay Council Tax/Business Rates
- The application for a liability order was made more than six years after the first demand was issued
- Bankruptcy, winding up proceedings have commenced or an Administration Order/Debt Relief Order has been made and the Council Tax/Business Rates debt is included.
I’m on a low income and not receiving Council Tax Support. What should I do?
If you are on a low income you may be entitled to a reduction in the amount of Council Tax you have to pay. Please contact us immediately to discuss this. For further information about how to check to see you are receiving all the benefits you are entitled to and how to claim benefit visit our website. In the meantime you need to make arrangements to start paying your Council Tax whilst any benefit award is being considered.
Who can I turn to for independent advice?
You can contact the following not-for-profit organisations for free, confidential and impartial debt advice or for details of where to get such advice in your area:
For advice and information on benefits, debt and other topics, visit your local Citizens Advice
Phone 0808 808 4000 or visit www.nationaldebtline.co.uk for debt advice and information.
StepChange Debt Charity
For debt advice throughout the UK phone 0800 138 1111 or visit www.stepchange.org
Money Advice Service
For free, unbiased and easy-to-access money tools, information and advice, visit www.moneyadviceservice.org.uk or phone 0300 500 5000 to speak to a Money Adviser
Member centres offer debt advice including specialist advice for minority communities and people with disabilities. For further information phone 0300 777 0107
Attachment of earnings/benefits
The local authority may consider issuing an attachment of earnings order due to non-payment of Council Tax, a maximum of 2 attachment of earnings orders can be issued to a debtor which will take deductions directly from your earnings. This will be calculated at a percentage dependant on your earnings, for more information on the values please use our online calculator.
If you are in receipt of Universal Credit, Job Seekers Allowance, Income Support, Employment Support Allowance or Pension Credits we may consider issuing an attachment of benefits order to the Departments of Work and Pensions for deductions to be taken directly from your ongoing benefit award.
You will receive a copy of the Court Order served to your employer, please note we do not have to gain your permission to proceed with this action.
For further information in regards to the administration of an attachment of earnings order please see our Guide for Employers.
Attachment of earnings acknowledgement form
If you’re an employer and have received an attachment of earnings please View and complete the attachment of earning acknowledgment form.
Enforcement agents are:
Dukes Bailiffs Limited - View Dukes Bailiffs Limited website
Tel: 01785 825500
Marston Holdings Enforcement Agents - view Marston Holdings website
We are unable to discuss repayment terms once your account has been passed to the Enforcement Agents therefore you should contact them directly.
Enforcement Agent Fees:
- Stage 1 - Compliance Stage - £75.00
- Stage 2 - Enforcement Stage - £235.00 (debts over £1,500 will be charged an additional 7.5%)
- Stage 3 - Sale or Disposal at Auction - £110 (debts over £1,500 will be charged an additional 7.5%)
What happens if the Enforcement Agents are unable to collect your debt?
We will request HMRC provides your employer's name and your earnings which would enable an attachment of earnings order to be served. If you’re not employed they will provide us information regarding your benefits in payment.
Charging Order, Bankruptcy or Committal
If attempts to recover outstanding tax via the above options the local authority will consider applying for a charging order against your property or taking bankruptcy proceedings against you.
Alternatively, the local authority will consider requesting the Magistrates Court to issue a summons for you to attend a committal hearing, which could result in you being sent to prison for unpaid tax.
Freeman of the Land
The ‘Freeman of the Land’ movement and groups of this nature believe Council Tax is a contract and requires a signature in order for them to be legally held liable for payment of Council Tax.
This is incorrect, Council Tax is not contractual and is billed in accordance with legislation linked below and does not require your consent, there are no legal basis in withholding payments in relation to this argument as noted with the Manchester Magistrates’ court vs McKenzie (2015) case.
It is important to note
- Council Tax liability is not optional
- Refusal to pay quoting ‘Freeman of the Land’ will not exempt your liability
- If you refuse to pay as per your bill further recovery action will be taken
Further information can be found below:
- Local Government Finance Act 1992
- Council Tax (Administration & Enforcement) Regulation 1992
- Council Tax (Demand Notices) (England) Regulations 2011