Croydon Council has signed a commitment to fair and ethical council tax collection and pledged to proactively offer help to those struggling with bill payments to prevent them getting further into debt.
Croydon is among the first local authorities in the country to sign the council tax protocol which has been developed by Citizens Advice (CAB) and the Local Government Association (LGA).
The protocol sets out how local authorities can work in partnership with local advice agencies like the CAB to support residents who may be getting into council tax arrears, adopting a proactive approach and early intervention to help prevent them getting further into debt.
Councillor Simon Hall, cabinet member for finance and resources, signed the protocol with Claire Keetch, chief executive of Croydon CAB, demonstrating their commitment to working in partnership to achieve ethical council tax collection.
In delivering the principles of the council tax protocols, Croydon Council will build on the success of its award-winning Gateway project, which supports struggling families to manage their finances and help their employability prospects. Council tax officers will work closely with colleagues in the housing and Gateway to assess residents’ situations and help them to achieve long-term solutions.
“Sadly it is often the most vulnerable people in society who fall victim to debt, and it can be hard for them to break the cycle. Council tax arrears should be treated as a sign that an individual or family are struggling and need our help. By signing the council tax protocol and working closely with the CAB, we are committing to offering our residents that help, to take an ethical approach to debt collection and build on the excellent preventative work of our Gateway service, helping families break the cycle of debt and build their financial resilience.”
Councillor Simon Hall, cabinet member for finance and resources
Claire Keetch, chair of Citizens Advice Croydon, said: “Our statistics consistently show a high number of our debt clients have council tax arrears and so I am delighted that Croydon Council has taken the important step of signing up to this council tax protocol. Citizens Advice Croydon and Croydon Council meet regularly to discuss practical and policy issues around the collection of council tax, and the protocol builds on this relationship, enabling closer working to help those struggling with bill payments find solutions, prevent further penalties and get back on track financially.”
Ethical council tax collection case study
Mr C was on sick leave and awaiting the date of an operation. A lone parent of two small children, he had accrued mortgage and council tax arrears.
Mr C contacted Citizens Advice Croydon and a debt adviser took a look at Mr C’s complete financial situation. Working with the council tax collection team, the adviser was able to prevent further court action in respect of council tax arrears.
As Mr C was the only adult in the home, the debt adviser worked with Croydon Council to arrange council tax support, and the CAB debt adviser also supported Mr C to access disability benefit and child responsibility payments and mortgage interest relief.
Citizens Advice Croydon and Croydon Council working together produced an increase in income for Mr C of over £600 per month and importantly enabled him to get back on track with his mortgage, preventing homelessness.