There have been many cases recently which have highlighted the number of local authority councillors who have been summonsed to court for non-payment of Council Tax.
What is the process for this and what can the local authority do to collect payment from them ?
Duty to declare arrears
Any councillor who is two or more months in arrears with their Council Tax payments (even if a liability order hasn’t been granted) has a legal duty to make a declaration. The process of gaining a court order for non-payment can take less than two months to go through so legal action could in theory commence before the statutory period of ‘two months in arrears’ is reached and has to be declared.
Section 106 of the Local Government Finance Act 1992 places a duty on a councillor to declare any failure of payment (as above) if they attend any meeting involved in setting the Council Tax rate for the local authority. They must abstain from any vote involved in the setting of the Council Tax rate until they are no longer in arrears.
If a councillor fails to make the declaration and/or makes a vote they are not entitled to then they commit an offence. This is subject to a fine of up to £1,000 per breach.
Can a Court Summons be issued to councillors ?
A court summons for Council Tax is issued where a person has failed to make payment of an instalment shown on a demand notice and they have not complied with a subsequent reminder notice or final notice.
The courts summons will advise a person that there will be a hearing at the magistrates court in respect of the outstanding Council Tax. This hearing will be with the intent of obtaining a liability order.
What happens after the Court Summons is issued ?
On the date shown on the court summons a court hearing will be held at the magistrates court to determine if the liability order is to be granted. If the court grant the order then the local authority is given a range of powers to enforce collection of the outstanding balance.
Recovering arrears from a councillor ?
A councillor is subject to any of the usual forms of Council Tax recovery – attachment of earnings/benefit, enforcement agents, charging order, bankruptcy or committal to prison.
There is however a further option available, that of an attachment of allowance. This is specific to councillors as a form of recovery and often used to recover outstanding monies from them.
Attachment of Allowance
Regulation 44 of the Council Tax (Administration & Enforcement) regulations 1992 allows a local authority to deduct Council Tax arrears, after a liability order, direct from their allowances. The arrears will be deducted at a rate of 40% of the allowance payments until such time as they have cleared the balance in full.
Did my local councillors receive a summons ?
You can see details which were gathered through Freedom of Information requests here.
Advice & Assistance from LGFA92
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This article is solely the view of LGFA92, the Council Tax experts, based on our interpretation of legislation. Your local authority is free to dispute this view. A binding decision may require the intervention of a valuation tribunal.