Councils criticised for turning to aggressive enforcement action over tax debts

Two-thirds have been threatened with court action, and half with bailiffs

Councils have been accused of turning to bailiffs and the courts rather than helping people in council tax arrears. Research from the StepChange debt charity suggests that local authorities are more likely to turn to aggressive enforcement action than offer affordable payment options.

Even when people have tried to talk to their council about their debt problems, they have faced tough action. Two-thirds have still been threatened with court action, and half with bailiffs. Meanwhile only a quarter were offered an affordable payment option and just one in 10 were encouraged to get debt advice.

"It is shocking that many councils are less likely to be helpful to people in debt than banks are – and are more likely to take people to court," said Mike O'Connor, chief executive of StepChange. "The growth in people struggling with their council tax bills is only outstripped by growth in problems caused by payday loans."

The number of people contacting the charity with council tax arrears has increased 372 per cent in the last five years and the average amount owed has risen £157.

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