Thousands of families in debt over council tax

Date:27th June 2013.'An image to illustrate a bailiff knocking on someones door.
Date:27th June 2013.'An image to illustrate a bailiff knocking on someones door.

Over 7,500 children across the borough belong to families at risk of a visit from bailiffs over council tax debt, new figures have revealed.

A new report by The Children’s Society has revealed the extent of council tax debt in Doncaster – with over 7,671 children in the town living in 4,478 families who have fallen behind with their bills.

And in the 2013/14 financial year the local authority made a total of 9,035 referrals to bailiffs over council tax debt.

The council said they could not quantify how many of those referrals had been made for families with children but The Children’s Society says, no matter the figure, no child in Doncaster should have to face feeling frightened or worried because bailiffs have visited their home.

As a result, the national charity is calling on local authorities to stop sending bailiffs round to families with children.

The Children’s Society chief executive Matthew Reed said: “Bailiffs should simply not be sent round to families with children.

“Instead, councils should give struggling residents a chance to negotiate affordable repayments, and make sure every family in trouble is offered independent debt advice.”

He continued: “Every child and teenager deserves to feel safe in their own home without being scared of the next knock at the door.”

This new data on council tax data comes after Doncaster council approved a 1.95 per cent increase in council tax for the next two financial years.

Assistant director of finance and corporate services Steve Mawson said: “We face an unprecedented set of cuts and pressures on our budget, but increases in council tax have been kept to a minimum, equating to 28p per week on a band A property.

“Where people still struggle to pay their council tax, we offer a lot of support including negotiating different payment plans, supporting people to restructure their debts and also referring them to partners at the Citizens’ Advice Bureau and welfare rights groups to help them further.

“Sending enforcement agents to collect amounts of outstanding council tax is always a last resort, and we do everything we can beforehand to try and prevent this from being necessary. If people are struggling to pay, let us know and we’ll see what we can do to help.”