A revised ‘debt policy’ has been drawn up by Fenland District Council to explain how those who owe them money can seek early advice and what help is available.

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Geoff Kent, head of customer services, will tell cabinet on Thursday that the new policy is a revised version of that first introduced in 2008.

One major change, he says, is the decision to notify residents when enforcement officers (formerly known as bailiffs) can act to collect monies owed to the council.

Mr Kent says those behind on council tax will, eventually, be passed to enforcement officers and the first £75 fee becomes payable. “At this stage all efforts will be made to make a payment arrangement and a number of ways to contact the customer will be made including several letters and several phone calls,” he says.

This, says Mr Kent, is called the compliance stage but does not include visiting a property to seize goods in the way that bailiffs used to.

If payment, or a payment plan, is not agreed the council goes to an enforcement stage – and the fees mount. In this instance a further £235 plus 7.5 per cent of the value of the debt that exceeds £1,500.

Mr Kent says at this stage people can expect an enforcement agent to visit and “goods to the value of the debt will be identified with a view to sale” should the debt not be paid.

If payment is still not forthcoming, next comes the sale or disposal stage which also includes a £110 fee, plus 7.5 per cent of the debt that exceeds £1,500, plus removal charges if necessary.

Mr Kent says the Government has introduced the concept of ‘vulnerable people’ and although not legally defined the council has done so.

Council tax, business rates, housing benefit overpayment, factory unit and office rents, traveller site rents, and garage rents are all part of the council’s estate and for which it collects monies.

Mr Kent also warns that as a last resort for people who refuse to pay there remains the threat of court proceedings.

“When all action has failed, we will go back to the magistrates’ court and ask for you to be sent to prison, for up to 90 days,” he says.

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