Council Tax Recovery and Housing Benefit Overpayments
- Meeting of Performance and Administration Cabinet Committee, Tuesday, 27 March 2018 7.30 pm (Item 19.)
The Committee received an update on Housing Benefit Overpayments in the form of a handout which can be viewed here:
The Assistant Manager Revenues & Benefits fielded questions from the Committee and highlighted the following:
· As at 28 February 2018 the total Housing Benefit debt outstanding is £5,489,694 (3285 cases)
· From 12 April the Council will be able to access HMRC data which should help to find out if someone is employed.
· If the Council are unaware that people have come into the Borough this could potentially affect the recovery of an outstanding debt that may be owed.
· It is possible for an individual to have numerous debts with different authorities.
· The data is more accurate now that real time information is being provided by HMRC which is demonstrated by overpayments created increasing to £2.5million in 2015-16.
· The Council networks with various groups including; Kent Managers Group, Overpayment Groups etc. to maximise the ways debt can be recovered.
· Gravesham has the third highest amount of outstanding Housing Benefit debt with Medway first and Thanet second. The Assistant Manager Revenues & Benefits will circulate the figures to the Committee.
· Gravesham maximises every route of Housing Benefit recovery.
· Write offs are dealt with as and when the Council has got the debt to write off. The Cabinet Member for Performance/Administration signs off debts under £15,000 and Cabinet deal with amounts of that amount.
The Committee received an update on Council Tax Recovery in the form of a handout which can be viewed here:
The Assistant Manager Local Taxation fielded questions from the Committee and highlighted the following:
· Generally GBC collect over 99.5% for both Council Tax and Business Rates using various prescribed recovery methods.
· The Council is usually at the bottom of the creditors pile and get nothing the vast majority of the time.
· The total Council Tax debt is £6million.
· In the current financial year; there has been a £1.7million reduction for Council Tax and £0.5million reduction for Business Rates.
· Court costs are £110 per case for Council Tax and Business Rates, this amount is added to the existing debt.
· The Council does still have cases where people don’t pay out of protest (rather than financial issues) but they are quite rare.
· Only two ‘attachments to earnings’ are allowed at a time (and only 1 for benefits). If other attachments are already in place the Council must wait its turn but generally Council Tax takes priority (Housing Benefit is quite low down in the pecking order).
· The Council refer cases to Enforcement Agents / Bailiffs where there is no alternative method of recovery available. The removal of household goods is very rare; no goods were removed this year.
· In 2017/18, only 4 cases were taken to a committal hearing where the debtor could be sent to prison. Once a sentence has been served the debt cannot be collected.
· Debts do have to be written off when there is no way of recovering; e.g. a company goes bust or an individual passes away or disappears. If an individual re-appears in the Borough the debt will go back on.
· The Service Manager (Revenues and Benefits) agreed to look into whether the selling on of debts to another agency would have to come back for a political decision to be made.
· The Council Tax Team consists of 3.5 staff in the Recovery Team, 3.5 staff who do the billing and 2 inspectors. The Customer services Team also provide assistance.
The Committee thanked the officers for an informative update and commended the teams on their hard work and great progress with debt recovery.
- Housing Benefits Overpayments Handout, item 19. PDF 1 MB
- Council Tax Recovery Handout, item 19. PDF 979 KB