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Unpaid council tax

Collecting unpaid council tax - debt recovery.

If you have a query relating to a reminder, summons or any other notice, then contact us immediately.

The information below shows the process for recovering unpaid council tax.

Collection of council tax

  • We must collect instalments as they are due
  • If you can’t keep up with your payments we can make an arrangement with you
  • The way we recover money follows the law and we treat people fairly and with respect.

What you need to know about reminders

The first you will know about your account not being paid correctly is when you receive a reminder notice. The reminder amount must be paid within 7 days of issue of the notice. If you don't pay the amount on the reminder within 7 days you will lose your right to pay by instalments and we won't send any more reminders. Then you must pay your whole year's bill in one lump sum.

If you pay the reminder amount and fall into arrears again, you will receive a second reminder and if you don't pay this reminder within seven days, you will receive a summons.

After a reminder

  • If you have received a reminder you can still pay by direct debit, after you have paid your reminder. Details are shown on the reverse of the reminder
  • If you want to make an arrangement to pay your council tax, we need you to tell us about your household income. Either phone us or complete and return the council tax arrears payment offer
  • Remember, the Council is not legally obliged to enter into arrangements for payment and only does so as part of its customer care policy.

NB: The Council will make an application at court for a Liability Order and costs in all cases. Even where an arrangement has previously been agreed. (see below)

The summons

If you have not paid the reminder a Liability Order will be obtained and a summons will be issued. A Liability Order gives powers to the Council to help enforce the recovery of a debt.

A summons is a legal notice inviting you to appear at a Magistrates Court, but only if you dispute the council tax owed.

If you know the tax is correct, but you have not paid it, then you do not need to appear at the Magistrates’ Court Hearing.


  • Once the Magistrates have granted the Order, we will tell you and ask you how you intend to clear the debt
  • You must legally complete and return this information within 14 days. Failure to return this form is a criminal offence and could lead to a fine of £500
  • If you don't do this we can’t enter into an arrangement with you
  • If you don't supply this information we will take further action. This may include one or more of the following:
  1. Attachment of Earnings Order.
    This allows the Council to deduct money direct from your earnings.
  2. Deductions From Income Support, Job Seeker's Allowance (JSA), Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), or Universal Credits (UC).
    This allows the Council to make fixed sum deductions from your benefit entitlement.
  3. Enforcement Agents.
    Enforcement Agents are used only when an arrangement cannot be agreed or an attachment made. They have legal powers, but must observe a 'Code of Practice' laid down by the Council. Once the debt has passed to them, any arrangements have to be agreed directly with the agents. The Enforcement Agents act on behalf of the Council to recover the debt, either by making suitable arrangements or removing goods and selling them at auction. The 'Code of Practice' agreed with the Council requires that they:
        • Must reply within 10 working days to your letters
        • Must send at least two letters before making a visit
        • Should enter into arrangements, where possible
      1. Insolvency.
        The Council can have you declared bankrupt.
        NB: Your home may be at risk in such proceedings.
      2. Charging orders.
        The Council may register a charge on your property for the debt to be paid if your property is sold. The Council may also order the sale of your house.
      3. Committal Proceedings.
        This will mean that the Council will issue a warrant for your arrest to appear before the Magistrates Court in order that a ‘means enquiry’ can be carried out (to find out your income and outgoings). The Court will examine your 'means' and decide if the non-payment is due to 'wilful refusal' (you refused to pay) or 'culpable neglect' (you are at fault for not paying). A custodial sentence of up to 90 days may be imposed.

      Debt counselling

      If you are experiencing financial difficulties, you could seek debt counselling advice by contacting one of the advice services listed on the Money advice page.

      Recovery process

      1. The Bill (payable by instalments)
      2. Instalment missed
      3. Reminder (maximum of two)
      4. Summons issued (costs incurred £80.00)
      5. Liability Order obtained at a Magistrate's Court.

      Whichever is appropriate:

      • Attachment of earnings
      • Attachment of benefit
      • Or Enforcement Agent action (incurring fees):
        • upon case being referred £75
        • Visit £235 (+7.5% of the value of the debt if over £1500)
        • Sale fees £110 (+7.5% of the value of the debt if over £1500)
      • Bankruptcy/Charging Orders:
        • Costs insolvency - variable
        • Costs charging order (sale of property) - variable.

      6. Committal Hearing costs incurred:

      • Up to £400, but additional costs may be added if further warrants are required.

      Either a suspended sentence or an arrangement to pay.

      7. Sent to Prison

      The above is not an exhaustive list and additional costs may be incurred by debtors at all stages of the enforcement process.

      The Council has a collection and enforcement policy.