Councils’ in-house debt collection service rakes in £1.5m in less than a year since launch

Pablo Dimoglou, Breckland councillor

Pablo Dimoglou, Breckland councillor - Credit: Archant

An in-house 'bailiff' service started to collect outstanding council tax and business rates for seven councils has been hailed a success after it raked in up to £1.5m in under a year.

Anglia Revenues Partnership (ARP) launched its Enforcement Agency last July, with the aim of collecting unpaid rates in a more efficient way.

Prior to the creation of the team, ARP - which provides revenue services to councils including Breckland, Forest Heath, St Edmundsbury, Waveney, Suffolk Coastal, Fenland and East Cambridgeshire - relied on external bailiff services to collect on its behalf.

But a report to ARP by Jo Andrews, strategic manager, said the Enforcement Agency's four compliance officers had been successful in doing 'fair but robust' work.

That includes collecting more than £1.1m, with £417,538 due on payment arrangements.

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According to the report, that sees the agency outstrip external provider's performance for both council tax and business rate collections.

There have also been fewer complaints - with only two since its launch, compared to an average of 23 for external providers.

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The agency's approach sees it work with debtors to arrange mutually beneficial terms of payment.

Pablo Dimoglou, executive member for finance for Breckland, said it had achieved its aims.

'The figures to date are very encouraging and indicate that we are achieving higher collection rates for unpaid council tax.

'Equally important, our approach of offering advice and flexible payment options gives a better outcome for people who have got into difficulty through poor money management, and means they are able to pay their debts without incurring additional charges from bailiffs,' he said.

A joint committee meeting on March 17 - at which the report was presented - also saw ARP agree to allow the recruitment of up to eight new officers, and negotiate with other councils to provide debt collection services on their behalf.

Mr Dimoglou said: 'Following the decision taken at the recent Joint Committee meeting we can now take on work for other councils. This will generate more income for Breckland and the other ARP partner councils, and benefit all our council tax payers.'

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