If, for any reason, you don't pay your council tax on time we are legally obliged to issue documents advising you of this and warning you what could happen next.  What document you get depends on how many times you have missed your payment. It could be a reminderfinal notice or a summons.

If you receive a summons then the matter is likely to go to court where we will be applying for a liability order.  A liability order gives us various powers to help us to recover the debt:

  • To request information
  • To attach earnings
  • To make deductions from Income Support / Job Seeker's Allowance
  • Charging Order
  • Bankruptcy / Insolvency
  • Distress (removal of goods to pay a debt)
  • Committal to Prison

If you have problems paying your council tax please contact us - we may be able to make a special arrangement with you.

You may be entitled to benefits - why not try our benefits calculator, visit our benefit web pages or contact our benefits section to see if there is anything you can claim.


Why have I been summonsed?

Because the Council has not received the amounts that you were asked to pay on the bill, a 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 The summons will not be withdrawn if you only make part payment or payment without costs.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 the 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 properly 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 if you are receiving all the benefits you are entitled to and how to claim benefits 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:

Citizens Advice

For advice and information on benefits, debt and other topics, visit your local Citizens Advice

(address in the phone book) or go to or

National Debtline

Phone 0808 808 4000 or visit for debt advice and information.

StepChange Debt Charity

For debt advice throughout the UK phone 0800 138 1111 or visit

Money Advice Service

For free, unbiased and easy-to-access money tools, information and advice, visit 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 

 If you receive any notice from the Council regarding the non-payment of your Council Tax do not ignore it. Doing so may mean that further recovery action will be taken with additional costs being incurred by you.