It often seems like there are bills for just about everything in life. With such high financial demands, it can be hard to know where to prioritise. This becomes even more relevant when you get into difficulties with money.
Council Tax is often one of the bills that people stop paying when times are tough. However, it’s a priority debt, meaning there can be serious consequences if you don’t pay it.
With this in mind, we take a look at how to deal with Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council debt.
Stockton-On-Tees Borough Council
Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council is the local authority of the Borough of Stockton-on-Tees. The organisation has powers of both a district council and a non-metropolitan county combined. As such, they’re responsible for a wide range of services.
Residents in the jurisdiction of Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council will pay their Council Tax to this organisation. The authority is also responsible for the local libraries, waste collection and disposal, education authority, social services and more.
The address of the local authority is: Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council, Municipal Buildings, Church Road, Stockton-on-Tees, TS18 1LD. Their contact number is 01642 393939.
What is Council Tax?
Local councils such as Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council collect money from residents in the community to pay for a range of services. The current system was first introduced back in 1993, replacing poll tax and local rates.
There are a range of different Council Tax bands in England and Wales, ranging from A and H. These bands take into account a wide variety of factors, such as the size and location of a property.
Usually, the person or people over the age of 18 living in a property are responsible for paying council tax. So, whether you’re the owner or tenant, it’s likely your responsibility to pay, at least in part.
The money collected through Council Tax is used to fund local services. So, things like the police and fire departments, as well as things like garbage collection, park maintenance, and support for the elderly and vulnerable. However, each council can spend the funds as they see fit.
How much is Council Tax?
Council Tax rates are set by the local authorities who collect them. Previously, rates were based on the rental value of a property. Nowadays, it’s based on the property’s market value.
As mentioned, there are several bands for the tax. So, depending on where you live and the size of the property, your rates can change quite a bit. You may even find that different houses on the same street fall into different Council Tax bands.
For Stockton-on-Tees, bands range from A to H. For 2020/21, the bands are as follows:
- Band A. £1,337 per year or £111.42 if paid monthly.
- Band B. £1,560 per year or £130 if paid monthly.
- Band C. £1,783 per year or £148.58 if paid monthly.
- Band D. £2,006 per year or £167.17 if paid monthly.
- Band E. £2,452 per year or £204.33 if paid monthly.
- Band F. £2,897 per year or £241.42 if paid monthly.
- Band G. £3,343 per year or £278.58 if paid monthly.
- Band H. £4,012 per year or £334.33 if paid monthly.
It’s important to remember that these are the rates without any discounts or reductions applied. We’ll cover those in more detail further down.
Stockton-On-Tees Borough Council debt
As you can see, Council Tax rates can be pretty steep, particularly if you have to pay them all in one go. A change in your circumstance or an unexpected cost can soon mean that you fall behind with your payments. It’s not an easy situation to be in, and things can soon escalate.
When it comes to things like Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council debt, it’s always a good idea to know where you stand and what will happen if you don’t pay. Having this knowledge means that you can approach the situation in a level-headed way, and avoid the worst of the consequences.
Here are some of the most commonly asked questions when it comes to dealing with a Council Tax debt:
What powers do the council have?
If you’re in arrears with your Council Tax, it’s what’s known as a priority debt. This means that councils can act quickly to recover any money that they’re owed. They also have some additional legal powers to reclaim the debt.
They can take legal action against you within a few weeks of you missing a payment. This can include a wide variety of costly and stressful measures. This includes things like taking you to court, calling in the bailiffs, and even deducting debts directly from your wages.
All of these measures can be carried out swiftly, and many of them can end up costing you more than the original cost of the Council Tax. Unlike a debt collection agency, councils have some of the strongest legal powers when it comes to reclaiming debts.
What happens if you miss payments?
When you miss a Council Tax payment by 14 days, your council will send you a reminder. From here, you’ll have seven days to pay your outstanding balance. If you don’t pay within this time, you’ll automatically have to pay the entire year’s bill. Obviously, this is far from ideal, especially if you missed a payment because you’re struggling financially.
If you pay the first time but then miss another Council Tax payment, you’ll be sent another reminder. However, you’ll get a maximum of two notices each financial year. If you pay within seven days but then miss another payment, you’ll automatically default to having to pay a year’s worth.
What if you don’t pay after the reminder?
It can be incredibly stressful when you’re being chased for Council Tax payments. Even if you manage to pay one month, another difficult month could set you back. And, in the worst-case scenario, you might have to stump up a few thousand pounds rather than a few hundred each month.
If you do not pay the amount due after the reminder, then the council can take further action. If they ask for the full year’s payment, you have seven days in which to make a payment. If not, Stockton-on-Tees council can apply to the magistrates’ court for a liability order.
A liability order is essentially a legal demand for you to pay the debt. The council can also add on the costs of hiring a lawyer and other legal costs. If you want to, you can go to court to contest the liability order.
What if you don’t pay after the liability order?
If you receive a liability order for your Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council debt, there are several things that might happen. Firstly, they may request information about your employer, salary, expenditure, and whether anyone else is liable for the debt. The council may then:
- Take money directly from your wages using an Attachment of Earnings order
- Take money from your benefits using an Attachment of Benefit order
- Send bailiffs (Enforcement Agents) to your home to take your property
- Petition you for Bankruptcy, meaning they can secure your property to pay the debt
Each of these methods comes with extra costs to the council, and they will likely add these costs to your original debt.
If the council still can’t recover the money after these actions, they also have the option to take you to court. The court will then determine whether you can pay the bill or have a valid reason not to pay it. In the worst-case scenario, you can be sent to prison for up to three months if you refuse to pay.
How to deal with Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council debt
So, it’s clear that there are some fairly serious consequences for not paying your Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council debt. It’s definitely not a route you want to go down, as it can have some long-lasting effects on your finances.
Thankfully, there are a few things you can do if you’re struggling to pay your Council Tax bill. These can help mitigate the damage, reduce costs, and give you more time to make a payment. Here are some of the things you can do if you’re struggling with your Council Tax:
It’s better to be proactive when it comes to dealing with Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council. If you know that you can’t afford to make an upcoming payment, you should contact them before they write to you. This buys you some time and means that they won’t immediately come after you for the money.
You can contact them via phone or email. Their phone number is 01642 397108, and their email address is email@example.com. By reaching out to them, you can explain the situation and see what options are available.
Hopefully, you’ll be able to work out what the best course of action is when dealing with the council directly. However, if you’re not making the progress you want, Citizens Advice might be able to help.
Arrange payment schedule
Many local authorities set Council Tax payments to a lump sum by default. As we’ve seen, this can be a significant amount to pay all in one go. However, there are other options available.
For Stockton-on-Tees, you can apply to change to monthly instalments. These are usually spread across ten months, but you can also arrange other methods of payment. For example, you might be able to pay weekly, fortnightly or 12 monthly. This can help you manage your finances better by making smaller regular payments.
You’ll need to reach out to the council to arrange this, and you might want to check your finances before you do so.
Check for benefits
Until 2013, there was a Council Tax Benefit. This helped people by giving them money towards their payment. However, it has since been replaced by a Council Tax Reduction scheme (also known as Council Tax Support).
Under this scheme, your bill can be reduced by up to 100%. It depends on your circumstances, such as whether you’re on a low income or claim benefits. It’s applicable to renters and homeowners regardless of employment status.
You’ll be assessed on factors such as where you live, the size of your family, your household income, and whether any other adults live with you.
Check for single person allowance
If you’re the only person over the age of 18 living in a property, you might be eligible for a reduction in your Council Tax bill. You could reduce your cost by 25%, and in some circumstances, this can rise to 50%.
If you’re an apprentice studying for a qualification, under 25 and in training, or in full-time education and aged 18-19, you are disregarded from paying Council Tax. The same is true for a range of other people, including:
- Student nurses
- Full-time carers who aren’t the partner of the main resident
- Monks and nuns
- Resident hospital patients and those living in care homes
Check your property band
It’s worth checking to make sure your property is in the right Council Tax band. If you’ve been paying your tax for at least six months, you can challenge the band in certain circumstances. This includes:
- If your property has changed, such as been split into multiple properties.
- If part of your property has changed, such as to be used for business
- If your local area has changed, such as if a new supermarket has been built.
You’ll need to provide evidence to support your claim and contact the Valuation Office Agency (VOA) to get your band changed. Regardless of what happens, you’ll still need to pay your Council Tax during a challenge to your band.
Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council debt – final thoughts
It’s clear that dealing with Council Tax debt with Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council is important. Failing to make a payment or arrange a payment plan can result in some serious consequences. Although it’s an expensive and necessary tax, there are several ways you can reduce your bill and get help to manage your finances. The most important thing is not to ignore the situation, as it will get worse if you do.