Council-tax dodgers could lose homes in new policy

Local elections. May 2008.'Graham Stokes. Labour. Knottingley.'w3843c819
Local elections. May 2008.'Graham Stokes. Labour. Knottingley.'w3843c819

COUNCIL tax dodgers could be forced to give up their homes under a hard-hitting new policy.

Wakefield Council’s cabinet committee approved a new charging order policy on Tuesday in a bid to recover the £17.1m it is currently owed in council tax.

Residents who have failed to pay their council tax for a number of years will have to appear in court and could be made to sell their homes at a price set by magistrates.

The charging order would only affect tax-payers who owe more than £1,000 on a property which they own.

Under the policy, a charge would be placed on a debtor’s property, such as a house or land, to be paid to the council if it was sold.

In extreme cases the council could press for an Order of Sale, forcing the owner to sell the property so that it can recoup the money owed.

A report to cabinet stressed that this would only be applied after consultation with the council’s Open Door Project, which works to prevent homelessness.

The report - which revealed 443 households in Wakefield currently owe more than £1,000, with 59 owing more than £3,000 - also stressed that the new policy would only be used in “appropriate circumstances”.

Coun Graham Stokes, cabinet member for corporate performance, said: “Council tax is used to provide the district’s residents with vital services and everything we do is reliant on the money being paid on time.

“When this doesn’t happen we have a duty to those who have paid to pursue payment from those who do not.

“The council fully understands that we are all facing very difficult financial challenges and we do everything we can to assist those experiencing genuine difficulty paying.

“However, we must continue delivering vital services and we have a duty to our customers to do everything in our power to ensure everyone liable to pay council tax does so.”