Problems paying your Council Tax

If you’re having difficulty paying your Council Tax please contact us. We can discuss your circumstance and look at any ways we can help. There are a number of local and national advice services we may also be able to point you to who can help you with financial issues.

It’s important that you get in touch as soon as possible when you know you are going to struggle to pay. Further recovery action could include court costs and further charges being added to your account.

Unpaid Council Tax

If you’ve received letters from us regarding unpaid council tax, you may be wondering what you should do and what could happen next. It’s really important that you contact us as soon as possible to discuss your situation and see what help we might be able to offer.

Council Tax Bill

A bill shows how much council tax you owe for the year. It will normally also show what instalments you should pay and when. Bills are usually sent at the start of the financial year. You may receive a bill during the year if your tax alters, for example, due to changes in council tax benefit or if you move address.

What should I do?

Pay the instalments on or before the due dates.

What if I cannot pay as billed?

Pay as much as possible as regularly as possible. If you’re paying less than the due amount or paying after the due date then you will receive further notices. We will not put recovery action on hold at this stage unless there are exceptional circumstances.

First/second reminder

A first reminder is sent because our records show you have fallen behind with your payments. This usually means you’ve not paid an instalment on time, or that you paid less than you should have done. It may also be sent if you still owe money from a previous year. A second reminder is usually sent because you have had a first reminder, brought your account up to date and then fallen behind again.

What should I do?  

Bring your account back up to date within the specified time. If an account is brought up to date and payments are kept up to date, no further letters will be sent.

What if I cannot do this?

If you do not bring your payments up to date you’ll lose your right to pay by instalments. No further reminders will be issued and the next document you receive will be a court summons for the full balance on your account. Court costs will be incurred at this stage.

If you‘re unable to pay you must contact us immediately.

Final reminder

This is normally sent if you have had a second reminder, brought your account up to date and then fallen behind for a third time. This letter will not be asking for the instalments that have been missed. This letter will cancel your right to pay by instalments and you’ll be asked to pay the remaining balance on your account in full.

What should I do?

You must pay the balance on your account in full within the specified time. If you pay the account in full you will not be sent any more letters.

What if I cannot do this?

If you do not pay the account in full you will be sent a magistrates' court summons. If you cannot pay in full you should pay as much as possible as regularly as possible. We will not re-instate instalments unless there are exceptional circumstances, nor can we set up arrangements at this stage.

Magistrates court summons

This is sent to tell you that because you are in arrears the Council is going to court to obtain a liability order against you. This is a legal document which states how much you owe us. It gives us the power to send your account to the bailiff or order deductions to be made at source from your wage or DWP payments (if this happens, you do not have the power to decide how much is taken from your wages - it will be a set amount decided on a percentage basis).

Costs of £80 will be added at summons stage.

If you get to this stage do not ignore it. We may be able to help if you get in touch and there is no need for you to attend the court hearing if you agree that the balance is due and want to make a payment arrangement. If you have a valid defence, for example, you have paid the bill or you are not liable for the tax, then you should attend the hearing or contact us before the court date.

A current claim for council tax benefit or an appeal against your valuation band which has not been resolved are not recognised as valid defences against the issue of a liability order.

What should I do?

You must pay in full before the court date. If you pay the balance in full (including costs) before the court date you will not be sent any more letters.

What if I cannot do this?

If you cannot pay before the court date, but wish to make an arrangement to clear your account please contact us straight away. Any arrangement that you make will still include the costs, but if you keep to the arrangement we will not take any further action against you. Council tax staff are unable to cancel a summons, even if you bring your account up to date.

What happens after a case goes to court?

Once an account has been to court there are five basic courses of action that we may take, depending on what we believe is the best way to secure payment. These are:

  1. Make an arrangement to clear your arrears by making regular weekly, fortnightly or monthly payments. Arrangements can be made by post, telephone or by visiting one of our offices. It is normal policy to make arrangements that will clear the arrears before the end of the financial year. Arrangements that go beyond this date are at our discretion. If an arrangement is broken, we will take one of the following courses of action.
  2. Your account may be passed to enforcement agents (bailiffs) to arrange collection of payment. Any arrangements for payment on accounts held by the enforcement agent must be made direct to their offices and not the Council. Equally, any queries about enforcement agent fees must be addressed to the enforcement agent directly. Once an account is passed to the enforcement agent we will not ask for it to be returned unless there are exceptional circumstances.
  3. An Attachment of Earnings Order (AOE) is sent to you and to your employer. The AOE instructs your employer to make deductions from your wage and send the money direct to the Council. Your employer has no discretion as to whether they make deductions - the AOE is a legal document and an employer can be prosecuted if they do not make deductions. You cannot cancel an AOE - once it is issued it can only be stopped by either payment in full or instruction from us to the employer to withdraw the AOE (though this is rarely done, and only under very exceptional circumstances). We can issue a maximum of two AOEs against you. If two are issued they are run simultaneously and not one after the other, meaning you will have two deductions made from your wage each week or month.
  4. If you receive income support, job seekers allowance, employment support allowance or guaranteed pension credit, we can ask the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to deduct money from your benefit source and send it directly to the Council. Only one deduction order can be set up by the Council at any one time. Deductions will end when the debt is paid in full or if you cease to be in receipt of the benefit.
  5. Where no other form of recovery has been successful, the Council may commence proceedings to have you either committed to prison or declared bankrupt.

Committal proceedings

If you receive a committal warning you must make an arrangement to clear the debt. If committal action is taken it will be for the amount of council tax owed and any bailiff and court fees.

Failure to make payments or an arrangement for payment could ultimately result in you being sent to prison for a maximum of three months.

Bankruptcy proceedings

If you owe more than £5,000, the Council can petition for your bankruptcy. You’ll be served with a statutory demand giving you 21 days to clear the debt in full. If you cannot pay, the Council would seek to make you bankrupt. This action, if successful, will affect your credit rating and may lead to you losing your home and any other assets which you own.

Remember that we’re not just here to collect money, we’re here to try and help you. Please contact us at any time on or call 01636 650000 if you’re having problems paying your council tax and need advice.