Freedom of information response

Exercising discretion when applying to the court for a Council Tax Liability Order

Publication date: 
Monday 11 May 2020
Request: 

1. Does Thurrock Borough Council exercise discretion before proceeding under regulation 34(2) of the Council Tax (Administration and Enforcement) Regulations 1992 to request a summons from a justice of the peace (it may be an automated process)

2. If yes to (1) what factors are taken into consideration

Response: 
  1. Yes, where contact is established.
  2. As stated in request there is a legislative process that a Council must be able to demonstrate has been applied prior to an application being made. In addition to required notices being produced and sent at the appropriate times in the collection cycle, Thurrock Council also utilises the following processes/methods in order to reduce the need to make such an application.
  1. With every collection letter sent there is an attachment encouraging contact is made to resolve the issue, signposting those experiencing difficulties to relevant organisations such as Citizens Advice, and advising charging payers of the costs that can be incurred should they not make contact or payment.
  2. Letters are also sent requesting the charge payer makes contact to a specific member of staff to discuss the situation. This letter also offers an appointment date and time at the Council to come and have a face to face meeting with this member of staff. The appointment date and time can of course be changed. Charge payers attending these meetings can of course see the Benefits Advisors and visit the Citizens Advice that is just a 5 minutes’ walk away. Many charge payers contacting the Council have other debt, and the Citizens Advice can offer holistic support aiding the prioritisation of their debt position.
  3. Proactive outbound telephone calls are made by the team in an attempt to make contact and resolve the situation
  4. When possible letters are sent advising members of staff will be available to take out of hours calls (before 9am, after 5pm or on a Saturday) for those unable to make contact during office hours.

Thurrock Council takes every opportunity to minimise the need to make an application for a Summons. For those that will not engage or make contact we have no option but to apply for a Summons. However, the strategies shown above also continue after a Summons is obtained where appropriate.

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Request reference:
FOI 9954