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Home > Council Tax > Paying Council Tax > Council tax summons

Council tax summons

If you have received a Council Tax Summons please find some frequently asked questions (FAQ's) below.

If you cannot find the answer to your query, please call the Recovery Team on 01473 433955.   

You can make payment now by using our secure Online Payments system

Pay Council Tax online

or by calling our Telephone Payments Line on 0845 372 4112 (24 hour automated service - This call will cost you 3 pence per minute plus your phone company’s access charge)

Why have you received a summons?

You have been summoned to attend Court because the Council Tax due from you has not been paid. We have not received the amount on your bill and reminder letter(s). This is a serious matter, which must be dealt with.

What if you pay now?

As soon as we receive full payment of the outstanding amount, including the costs, proceedings will be stopped.

What if you cannot pay in full now?

Contact us to discuss a payment plan on 01473 433955. Our main concern is to collect the debt as quickly and efficiently as possible. If an instalment arrangement is the best way of achieving this, that option will be offered. If we can reach agreement, it will not be necessary to attend the Court hearing. The matter will still go to Court, but no action will be taken on the Liability Order issued whilst you make the payments promised. (The costs incurred will remain payable, but these will be included in the arrangement).

Do you have to attend Court?

No, unless you dispute  the sum shown on your summons, it is not necessary for you to attend the Hearing. You have a legal right if you wish to do so but the court will not consider any proposals for payment. The purpose of the Hearing is to consider the actual liability for payment of the council tax and not the ability to pay.  If you do attend the Hearing, please bring the summons with you.

What happens at Court?

The Court’s role is to decide whether the correct procedure has been followed when requesting payment from you and must be satisfied that:-

1. The Council Tax has been fixed by the Council.

2. A bill for payment has been issued.

3. A reminder or final notice has been issued.

4. The summons has been correctly issued and served.

5. The amount due has not been paid.

If the Court accept that the correct procedure has been followed a Liability Order will be issued, which will mean additional costs will be added to your balance. If you choose to attend, you will have the option to discuss the matter with our representative. You will also have the opportunity to present your case to the Magistrates. There are certain matters, which will not be considered by the Magistrates. 

Will my financial circumstances or any other grievances be taken into account?

No, the Court is only concerned with establishing that the correct process of advising you of your liability has been followed and that you have not paid. Associated matters such as your financial position, an unresolved dispute with the Valuation Officer, a pending application for Council Tax Reduction or a dispute with another department of the Council however important they seem to you, have no bearing upon the proceedings.

Specific procedures allow these matters to be resolved independently of the Court. In exceptional circumstances, we may consider a different approach but this is very much based upon the merits of a case. It is therefore, important that you discuss any point of concern with us before the Court Date.

What happens if the Court grants a Liability Order?

If the court grants a liability order, the Council can demand certain information from you about your employment and earnings to help them decide how to recover the debt. You are legally required to give the Council this information and it may help you pay the bill. The main methods of recovery are: 

  • Attachment of earnings orders

We can order your employer to recover the amount direct from your wages or salary and pay it straight to us.  The amount will be a set proportion of your pay after certain other deductions (such as income tax and national insurance). Your employer may also deduct a further £1 towards their costs in making each deduction and sending it to us. See the link 'Attachment of Earnings Guidance Notes and Statutory Information' at the bottom of the page.

  • Deductions from Income Support, Job Seekers Allowance, Employment Support Allowance, Pension Credit or Universal Credit

If you are receiving one of the above payments, we may be able to apply for deductions from your benefit.

  • Enforcement Agents (previously known as Bailiffs)

The Council can instruct an Enforcement Agent to collect the debt by removing and selling some of your possessions. This will result in you having to pay additional fees, which have been set by legislation:

Compliance Stage ( Written notice will be sent by the Enforcement Agent )

Fee £75

Enforcement Stage

Fee £235

Percentage Fee 7.5% on excess of debts over £1,500

Sale Stage

Fee £110

Percentage Fee 7.5% on excess of debts over £1,500

THESE FEES HAVE BEEN SET BY CENTRAL GOVERNMENT AND BECAME LAW FROM 6 APRIL 2014

Other options for enforcement action include bankruptcy proceedings, and, for a debt of £1000 or more, a charging order whereby the authority may apply to a county court for a charge on the debtor's property.

Information will be required from you if we exercise some of these options. If requested, it must be supplied. If not, you will be summoned to appear at Court. Failure to supply information is a criminal offence and a fine of up to £1,000 can be imposed.

What if you are still unable to pay?

We may apply to the magistrates' court for a warrant committing you to prison. We will only take this step when other efforts have failed and when Enforcement Agents have been unsuccessful.

Before issuing a warrant of commitment the court must hold a means enquiry with you present.  A warrant will only be issued if the court is satisfied that the failure to pay is the result of wilful refusal or culpable neglect.  The maximum period of imprisonment is three months. The court may decide to fix a term of imprisonment and postpone the warrant on certain conditions, normally relating to payment of the debt over a period of time.

Council Tax Attachment of Earnings Orders - Guidance Notes and Statutory Information