Thousands in Norfolk threatened with bailiffs over council tax
- Credit: PA
A warning has been issued that more people in Norfolk could find themselves threatened with action by bailiffs over non-payment of council tax, as new figures reveal almost 22,000 court orders were granted last year against people who had not settled their bills.
Courts in Norfolk granted 21,903 liability orders to the county's councils for non-payment of council tax in 2012/13. Those orders mean people have two weeks to pay up or bailiffs could be sent out to recoup the money on behalf of the councils.
In Norwich, the city council obtained 8,545 liability orders in 2012/13, up from 7,547 the previous year, while in Great Yarmouth 3,454 were granted. In Breckland there were 3,105, 1,943 in West Norfolk and 1,747 in Broadland. In South Norfolk, where 1,701 liability orders were obtained, Yvonne Bendle, cabinet member for housing and public health, said: 'We're working with residents to help them manage their council tax payments and to help avoid adding court costs on top for those who are struggling. Residents are being asked to contact us to discuss any difficulties they may have, with more people opting to pay council tax over a 12-month period to help spread the costs.'
At North Norfolk Council, where 1,317 liability orders were sought, council tax arrears stood at £762,241 in 2011/12, compared to £756,064 the previous year.
And the Citizens Advice Bureau has warned that even more households could find themselves stretched and at the mercy of bailiffs, as cash-strapped councils look to recover money.
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Changes to council tax benefit were introduced in April, which means local councils now run the schemes, but with 10pc less funding than the old, national scheme.
And Citizens Advice said, in the space of just two months, they had seen a surge in people seeking advice on how to deal with bailiffs and council tax arrears. Citizens Advice chief executive Gillian Guy said: 'Bailiffs will see their profits rise at the expense of hard-pressed households.
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'We're concerned that changes to council tax benefit will mean more people will end up in debt because they can't pay their bill. The number of people worried about council tax is up 87pc since the changes came in, and this will climb even higher as more people find it difficult to cope with the costs.' Staff at Norfolk's Citizens Advice Bureau, based in Norwich, said they had a 'steady flow' of people seeking help over liability orders and council tax arrears. According to government figures, the total of Norfolk council tax arrears in March last year was more than £18m.