Agenda Item No 8

The Vale of Glamorgan Council

Cabinet Meeting: 17th September 2018

Report of the Leader

Consultation response on the removal of the sanction of imprisonment for the non-payment of council tax

Purpose of the Report

  1. To seek approval for the Cabinets response to the Welsh Government's consultation paper.

Recommendations

  1. That the consultation response at appendix (B) be approved.

Reasons for the Recommendations

  1. To confirm the response of Cabinet to the Welsh Government's consultation paper on the removal of the sanction of imprisonment for the non-payment of council tax.

Background

  1. The Local Government Finance Act 1992 and The Council Tax (Administration and Enforcement) Regulations 1992 makes provisions for Billing Authorities to commence committal proceedings in relation to council tax and non-domestic rates.
  2. An application to the Magistrates' Court for commitment to prison of a debtor can only be made following an unsuccessful attempt to collect the debt by the use of Enforcement Agents.
  3. Where a debtor has been summoned to the Magistrates' Court then a full means enquiry must be undertaken and the debtor can only be committed to prison where the Magistrates have determined that there has been wilful refusal or culpable neglect to pay the amount outstanding.
  4. On the 18th January 2017 in the case of R on the application of Woolcook v Bridgend Magistrates' Court, The Honourable Mr Justice Lewis determined that the order made by the Magistrates' Court committing the debtor to prison for non-payment of council tax was unlawful due to a number of procedural errors.
  5. The Welsh Government issued a consultation document on the 11th June 2018, appendix (A), requesting views on the removal of the sanction of imprisonment for the non-payment of council tax. The completion date for this consultation exercise was 3rd September 2018.

Relevant Issues and Options

  1. The Council actively pursues debtors who have received reminders and court orders requiring them to pay their arrears of council tax, but who, despite being able to pay, have not done so. Action at this level is only taken as last resort with the numbers committed to prison being very low. No one has been imprisoned since January 2017 for non-payment of Council Tax in the Vale of Glamorgan. However, it is considered that this is an important option that the Council should be able to utilise where an individual is opting not to pay their Council Tax bill.   
  2. It is proposed that the response to the consultation at Appendix B is approved stating that the Cabinet does not support the removal of the sanction of imprisonment currently available to all Council's in Wales.
  3. Due to the timeline outlined above, the draft response has already been submitted to Welsh Government with a caveat that it is still to be approved by Cabinet.

Resource Implications (Financial and Employment)

  1. There would be a potential reduction in the collection of council tax and non-domestic rates should the Welsh Government remove the sanction of imprisonment. 

Legal Implications (to Include Human Rights Implications)

  1. Should the sanction of imprisonment for the non-payment of council tax be removed then the Council will no longer have the ability to use this recovery method when attempting to collect council tax from those who refuse to pay, or are culpable in their neglect to pay.

Crime and Disorder Implications

  1. None as a direct result of this report.

Equal Opportunities Implications (to include Welsh Language issues)

  1. None as a direct result of this report.

Corporate/Service Objectives

  1. The collection of council tax and NDR supports the Corporate Priority of managing the Council's money efficiently and effectively in order to maximise its ability to achieve service aims and the service objective of providing sound financial management

Policy Framework and Budget

  1. The matter is for Executive Decision by Cabinet.

Consultation (including Ward Member Consultation)

  1. The matter has not been subject to consultation.

Relevant Scrutiny Committee

  1. Corporate Performance and Resources

Background Papers

None

Contact Officer

Carys Lord, Head of Finance

Officers Consulted

Exchequer Manager

Responsible Officer:

Rob Thomas

Managing Director