THE USE of bailiffs to collect council tax arrears was queried by a member of the public at a meeting of Wokingham Borough Council held on Monday, July 6.
Ann Dally wanted to know why they were being used when other routes, such as local debat advice organisations, yielded more results.
“Has the Council been in contact with other Local Authorities … in order to understand their experiences and how they have benefited from this?” she asked.
Replying, Cllr John Kaiser, the executive member for finance and housing, said that the council’s income service did communicate with other local authorities, and that best practise synergies were used.
“I can confirm we have robust processes and procedures based on meeting Council Tax legislation,” he said. “Wokingham Borough Council works with those in arrears to agree affordable and sustainable repayment plans, taking into account personal circumstances.
“The notices sent about Council Tax are in plain English and they clearly explain the collection process. We encourage customers to seek debt advice if they are experiencing financial difficultly.
“Over the last year the Service Manager has introduced ‘surgery’ days (every two months or so) where customers can come and talk to staff from Wokingham Borough Council and the Wokingham Citizens Advice to prevent unnecessary action.”
He added: “What does need to be considered is the less we collect in Council Tax the bigger impact it will have on our local services and budgets.”
Ms Dally said that she was pleaded to hear that the council wanted to reduce customer stress, but she wanted to know if the council was aware of the link between indebtedness and mental health.
Cllr Kaiser replied: “Yes we are – it will be taken fully into consideration”.