Chasing Council Tax & Rent Arrears in Edinburgh

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I’m often asked what the City of Edinburgh Council does to recover Council Tax and Rent arrears. The briefing from Council Officers below provides an overview of the process. Of course, the Council does adapt this process where needed to help people dealing with acute personal problems.

 

Is it possible to get an annual figure for the past five years of the arrears owed to the council in terms of council tax?

Financial Year Debt at end of Appropriate Financial year Collection Rates % at Appropriate Financial year end Current Historic Debt levels as @31 August 2017 broken down per year
2016/17 £9,470,142.41 96.42% £8,748,693.01
2015/16 £9,765,301.28 96.12% £7,239,623.89
2014/15 £10,496,672.08 95.36% £6,312,735.03
2013/14 £14,204,961.57 94.70% £6,412,001.81
2012/13 £13,573,131.09 94.50% £6,870,209.30

The Council is committed to maximising Council Tax collection and over the last 5 years the Council Tax collection rate has increased from 94.5% to a high of 96.42% achieved in 2016/17.

To support Council Tax collection a comprehensive recovery procedure is followed.  This includes early reminders and customer engagement, where this is unsuccessful and, consistent with the Council Tax regulations, the Council uses a Sheriff Officer to support debt recovery, where appropriate to do so.

These co-ordinated actions result in the ongoing collection of historic debt. An example of the improvements made to historical debt collection is demonstrated by the 2012/13 year-end debt of £13.5M as at 31 March 2013, which has now reduced to £6.9M at 31 August 2017.

Is it possible to get a figure of the arrears owed to the council in terms of rent?

The figure for current tenant rent arrears at end of the 2016/17 financial year, on 31 March 2017 was £6,068,503.93.

Is there a separate figure for outstanding debt with payments arranged and those with payments not?

This information is available and can be provided for any future requests, if adequate notice is provided.  On this occasion, however, due to the tight timescale to return this information to you we are unable to provide this for Council Tax collection in line with your required turnaround.

For Council Tax, we continue to work with customers to ensure that appropriate payment plans are in place.  These are continually reviewed by the Council and the Sheriff Officers.  The Council also works with the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) to ensure that appropriate deductions are made from benefit payments.  These payments are means tested in line with national legislation.

In some instances, it is not possible to trace debtors however these continue to be reviewed on ongoing basis.

How does the council pursue arrears? Has the policy of collecting debt changed in the last five years? Does the council act quicker to recover the arrears than they did five years ago?

Council Tax recovery procedures are set out in the Local Government Finance Act 1992 and the Council Tax (Administration & Enforcement) (Scotland) Regulations 1992; S1 1992, S129.

Our recovery programme was revised in April 2013 and we now operate to best practice timescales in accordance with the relevant legislation.  We are legally obliged to send all Council Taxpayers a reminder for any arrears outstanding.  Providing the customer brings their account up to date within the allowed 14-day period and continues to pay their further instalments as detailed in their bill, then no further recovery action will be taken.

If a customer fails to pay the amount detailed in the reminder, a Summary Warrant is secured and the account passed to the Sheriff Officer for recovery.  Actions can include agreed repayment plans, bank/wage arrestment etc. and for higher value cases sequestration is considered.

Procedures continue to be reviewed to support overall collection rates including targeted communications for persistent late payers and text reminders.

Are there more prepayment plans set up now than before?  If not are the debts collected quicker?

The Council continues to promote Direct Debit payments and this has supported collection improvements over the last 4 years.

2013/14 2014/15 2015/16 2016/17 2017/18 as at today
% of Total Council Tax liability collected through Direct Debit 75.45% 75.78% 76.63% 78.31% 78.68%

 

 

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