The assurance comes in response to the findings of a council task group which was established to examine the council’s use of enforcement officers to collect unpaid council tax.
The group found that Mendip’s collection rate for council tax had increased in recent years while the extent of recovery action, including referrals to enforcement agents, had decreased.
However, it was agreed that a number of steps be taken to better assist those people having trouble paying their bills.
These steps included:
- Encouraging more people to contact the council if they are having problems paying their bill, by giving the issue more prominence on the council tax pages of Mendip’s website.
- Using the council’s website to link to the Citizens Advice website and wider promotion of the free Debt Advice line.
- On council tax correspondence, encouraging people to contact the council, Citizens Advice or the independent Debt Advice line at the earliest opportunity if they are having trouble paying.
- Promoting more widely the discretionary council tax support scheme and the associated hardship fund.
- Ensuring enforcement agents always try to establish a payment arrangement with a debtor before visiting their home.
Cllr Philip Ham, Portfolio Holder for Transformation, said: “While it’s very encouraging that we are increasing our council tax collection rate at the same time as reducing the extent of our recovery action, we recognise that we need to do more to encourage those people having difficulties in paying their bill to seek help at the earliest opportunity.
“With more and more people visiting the council’s website for help and information, and to pay their council tax bills, we will use the website to better promote the help available to people, including our discretionary council tax support scheme and the independent agencies which can offer support and advice.
“While we are keen to support those people who have genuine difficulties paying their bills, we will continue to take a hard line on those people who simply refuse to pay.
“It’s important to remember that Mendip has a responsibility to collect council tax not just for the district council but on behalf of a wide range of other local public service providers, including the county council, police and fire service.
“Council tax is a key part of how services for local people are funded so it’s only right that we do all we can to recover payment, while supporting those people genuinely in need.”