St Albans City and District Council has agreed to a new policy offering help for people in the St Albans District who are struggling to pay their Council Tax.
The Council Tax Protocol, arranged with partner organization Citizens Advice, contains a commitment to intervene at an early stage to support people who have fallen into arrears.
The protocol details the practice that the Council will undertake when considering how best to deal with Council Tax debts.
Among other measures, the Council will review payment arrangements for those on fluctuating incomes.
Enforcement Agents, commonly known as bailiffs, who are hired by the Council to recover debts will be required to follow guidelines, including identifying vulnerable households and giving careful consideration to recovery action.
Council Tax literature or notices will contain contact details for debt advice agencies while information on how bills may be reduced through reliefs and exemptions will also be promoted.
Councillor Alec Campbell, the Council’s Leader and Portfolio Holder for Resources, signed the protocol along with June Chapman, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice St Albans District.
He said: “Each year we collect 99% of Council Tax on time without any problems. However, some people do fall into arrears and we need to deal with that.
“This protocol ensures that we will approach the sensitive issue of debt recovery in a consistent, fair and open way.
“It was developed following a question from Councillor Janet Smith at a Council meeting. We are committed to working closely with our partners and will regularly review our procedures to see if any improvements need to be made.
“It is particularly important we talk to people who are struggling with payments at an early stage before the arrears mount, so we can offer them practical help and advice.”
June said: “We have established a strong working relationship with the Council that has built up over many years.
“I am pleased they have agreed to this protocol which is a commitment to approaching debt recovery in an exemplary fashion.
“We are here to help people who may have financial problems or other difficulties and have a great deal of experience in doing so.”