A number of Councils across England and Wales will be piloting a scheme to help local authorities recover millions of pounds of unpaid Council Tax – which has cost English local authorities around £3 billion (at 31 March 2018), since council tax was first introduced in 1993.
Coventry City Council is one of 29 local authorities taking part in the trial working with HM Revenues and Customs (HMRC) to be the first to use the debt information sharing powers introduced by the Digital Economy Act (2017). Its estimated that the pilot project could help the Council tackle £5 million of unpaid Council tax in Coventry.
Through the trial, which will roll out from 8 July, non-paying customers who are employed or have an income will be contacted to start paying their debts, or they will have their debt deducted directly from their earnings through their employer.
The Act allows Councils to obtain employer and income information from HMRC for people who have failed to pay their Council Tax and have an order to pay by the local magistrates court.
The pilot allows Councils to work with HMRC to share employment information that will allow Coventry Council to help manage and recover unpaid Council Tax, which could be used to improve services to residents.
The local authority already works closely with debt advice providers to support vulnerable residents who are struggling with debt.
Anybody who finds themselves in a position where they cannot pay their Council Tax should contact the local authority immediately to discuss their situation.
The pilot will be reviewed after a year and a decision will then be made whether to roll the programme out to all Councils in England and Wales.
In order to provide transparency about what data is being shared each pilot is registered on gov.uk
Cllr John Mutton, Cabinet Member for finance, at the Council, said: “Last year the amount of Council Tax collected by the revenues team was more than £9.3m up on the previous year.
“It’s important to work hard to maximise revenue collections especially at a time when the national government is reducing the amount of funding it provides to local authorities.
“We need to keep improving, and linking with the HMRC will allow us to potentially increase the money we put into vital frontline services and services for our most vulnerable residents. It’s about holding people to account.
“It’s also important that we continue to support those people who are struggling to make ends meet with help from our colleagues in the city’s debt advice providers.”
In 2018/19 the Council collected 95.7% of council tax. A total amount of £142.8m.