Council tax dodgers in Eastbourne to be tracked down in new pilot strategy

Eastbourne council offices in 1 Grove Road, Eastbourne. Photo from Google Street View
Eastbourne council offices in 1 Grove Road, Eastbourne. Photo from Google Street View

People who dodge paying their council tax are being tracked down in a new pilot scheme being tested by Eastbourne council.

It is one of only 29 local authorities in the country taking part in a trial to use “debt information sharing powers” to catch non-payers – after it was revealed unpaid council tax cost local services around £3 billion since it launched in 1993.

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Through the trial, non-paying customers who are employed or have an income will be contacted to start paying their debts, or they will have their debt deducted directly from their earnings through their employer.

The Digital Economy Act, passed in 2017, allows councils to obtain employer and income information from HMRC for people who have failed to pay their council tax and have an order to pay by the local magistrates’ court.

Councillor Alan Shuttleworth said, “The vast majority of Eastbourne residents pay their council tax every month that helps to pay for vital services and to support some of the town’s most vulnerable people.

“It is wholly unfair there is a minority of people in the borough who benefit from, but refuse to contribute to, the collective pot at a time when local authorities are relying more and more heavily on council tax to deliver vital services.

“We will continue to support those people who are struggling to make ends meet, but it’s time for those who are avoiding Council Tax to play their part and we hope this pilot gives us the power to hold these people to account.”

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Eastbourne Borough Council says it works closely with debt advice providers to support vulnerable residents who are struggling with debt.

It says anybody who finds themselves in a position where they cannot pay their Council Tax should contact the local authority immediately to discuss their situation.

The pilot will last one year before being reviewed, then a decision will be made whether to roll the programme to all councils in England and Wales.

In order to provide transparency about what data is being shared each pilot is registered on gov.uk.