Plea for Council Tax bills to be sent out early in 2024
and live on Freeview channel 276
It follows “difficulties” this year when some bills due in April were only sent out in April.
At a recent meeting of Scottish Borders Council members agreed to rubber-stamp a Council Tax and Non-Domestic Rates Recovery Policy, as it emerged that 11 per cent failed to pay their bills.
In March 2023 a total of 59,656 annual Council Tax bills were issued.
In April 2023, 11 per cent of customers failed to pay their Council Tax instalment and received a reminder from which 69 per cent went on to receive a Final Notice as they failed to bring their instalments up to date.
In April 2023 the authority issued 8,839 Non-Domestic Rates Bills and by May six per cent of the 7,390 customers pursued failed to pay their rates instalment and received a reminder from which 74 per cent went on to receive a Final Notice as they failed to bring their instalments up to date.
Against that backdrop the specific aims of the new policy are to ensure all customers pay in accordance with their bills or demand notices or by agreement in accordance with the regulations.
It is planned to ensure bills and demand notices are “issued at the earliest opportunity” in accordance with the regulations and to take prompt action to reduce the risk of arrears escalating and becoming unmanageable to the customer, but to also ensure the council’s approach to debts/arrears is “fair and consistent for all customers”.
Councillor Mark Rowley, SBC’s executive member for or Service Delivery & Transformation, said: “I think it is really difficult that we are talking about how we collect more of the money that the council is due at a time when we know that people are struggling and I welcome the extra flexibility.
“We need to get out through our communications that you can now pay your Council Tax over 12 months, rather than the traditional 10, and between now and the start of the Council Tax year is the time to do it.
“The hard facts are that if funds due to this council aren’t collected it leads directly to a reduction in services and standards to the the citizens of the Scottish Borders that we seek to serve, so we have to do everything that we can to maximise collection rates in a legal, fair and appropriate way. Hopefully with the changes we are making we will see an improvement in collection rates next year.”
Tweeddale West ward’s Councillor Drummond Begg said it was important to get bills sent out in a “timely manner” to households and businesses so they can plan ahead, adding: “I hope that we don’t have a repeat of this year’s difficulties when bills were sent out in April when they were due in April.”