Council Tax recovery/enforcement information

Collection of Council Tax

  • it is our aim to collect all instalments as they become due
  • if instalments are overdue we will attempt to make mutually acceptable arrangements where possible
  • the Council's recovery policy has been drawn up in compliance with current regulations whilst incorporating the our Customer Care policy
  • recovery policy for Council Tax is agreed in advance and ensures that all taxpayers are treated fairly
  • all complaints will be dealt with in seven days and depending on the nature of the complaint, recovery action may be suspended

You must contact us immediately if you are experiencing difficulty in paying. If you wish to make an offer of payment please complete the attached financial enquiry form and post or e-mail this back to the Recovery Team.

What you need to know about reminders

The first stage of recovery on a late instalment is a Reminder Notice. We deal with 41,000 taxpayers and therefore, due to the number it is not possible to check each Reminder before issue. The legislation currently specifies:

  • a bill is issued for an estimated annual charge and you have the right to pay by instalments
  • a reminder will be issued shortly after an instalment becomes due and is unpaid
  • non compliance with a reminder will result in the loss of the right to pay by instalments and no further reminders will be issued. The balance remaining will become due in one lump sum payment
  • a maximum of two reminders will be served in any one financial year. (You will only receive a second reminder if you have complied with the terms of the first reminder and have again fallen behind with your payments)

We usually send a discretionary final notice after two reminders and before the issue of a summons in order to give the taxpayers a further opportunity to pay and avoid costs and potential court action.

Following a reminder notice we may be able to make an arrangement to clear the arrears. Provided you set up a Direct Debit with your bank we are usually prepared to spread any arrears over the remaining instalment period.

If you cannot agree to pay by Direct Debit you may be asked to complete a financial enquiry form providing details of your income and expenditure so that a mutually acceptable arrangement can be made. In some cases we will make an arrangement with you but the Council will still need to apply for a Liability Order at an additional cost.

Summons and beyond

What this means to you

If you have not complied with a reminder, contacted us to make an arrangement or where an arrangement has been made on the understanding that a Liability Order will be obtained but held pending full payment of the arrangement, a summons will be issued. A summons is a legal notice requiring you to appear at the Magistrates Court if you dispute liability. Below is a list of valid disputes:

  1. no entry in valuation list for period of liability
  2. the tax has not been properly set
  3. the tax has not been demanded in accordance with the statutory regulations
  4. the amount demanded has been paid
  5. that more than six years have elapsed since the day on which the sum became due
  6. the sum is in respect of a penalty which is subject to an appeal
  7. that bankruptcy or winding up proceedings have been initiated

If you know the Tax is correct but in arrears you do not need to appear at court. Costs will usually be incurred with the issue of a summons - if you have not done so you should contact the Council to see if an arrangement is possible.

An outstanding appeal against your band value is not a valid defence against the granting of a liability order.

The Council will request a Liability Order at the hearing and you will be notified of this within a week (provided you have not previously made an arrangement to pay), further costs will be incurred with the granting of a Liability Order.

Once a Liability Order has been granted and provided you have not entered into an arrangement to pay, the Council is entitled to enforce payment by either:

  • attachment of earnings - deducting direct from your wages an amount set by legislation
  • attachment of benefit - this currently includes Income Support, Job Seekers Allowance and Employment Support Allowance. Again the deductions are preset by legislation
  • The Taking Control of Goods usually a course of last resort as the debtor will incur bailiffs fees. Once the Enforcement Agents have become involved any arrangement must be made with them
  • bankruptcy action/charging order where appropriate

The Taking Control of Goods (previously known as Bailiff Action) (with effect from 6 April 2014)

Once a Liability Order has been granted, it gives the Council the power to recover the unpaid Council Tax in a number of ways (see above).

The Enforcement Agents act on behalf of the Council to recover the debt, whether this is by arrangement or by removing goods and selling them at auction.

The enforcement agents' code of practice as agreed by the Council is as follows;

  1. The Enforcement Agent may call between 6am-9pm seven days a week, 365 days a year including all Bank Holidays
  2. The Enforcement Agent will carry identity cards at all times, together with authorisation from Spelthorne Borough Council.
  3. The Enforcement Agent will be smartly dressed, act politely and discreetly.
  4. Arrangements are at the discretion of the Enforcement Agent but no arrangement will go beyond six months without the consent of the Council.
  5. Correspondence to the Enforcement Agent where a written reply is required will be dealt with within 10 working days (Replies are sent out within one day of receiving letters unless it's a complaint which can take up to two days).
  6. They will make an initial visit to the taxpayer within seven working days of receipt of the Liability Order.
  7. They will not distain upon goods belonging to children or remove any protected goods eg beds, washing machines, tools of the trade etc
  8. The Enforcement Agent will operate within the code of practice of The Enforcement Services Agency of England and Wales.
  9. They will leave a signed copy of any goods where 'Taking Control of Goods' has been taken with the taxpayer and will provide a breakdown of fees where required. * (At the Enforcement Agents discretion they may agree not to remove any goods listed by the Enforcement Agent where an agreement for payment is reached.)
  10. They will issue a receipt for all monies received.

If you require any more information regarding the Enforcement Agents, you should contact Chandlers Enforcement Agents on 0208 290 5055 or

Enforcement Agent Fees

Fee stageFixed feePercentage fee (Regulation 7)
Percentage of sum to be recovered exceeding £1500
Compliance Stage£750%
Enforcement Stage£2357.5%
Sale or Disposal Stage£1107.5%

Committal to prison

If the bailiffs have returned the Liability Order endorsed as 'no effects' and the Council has not been able to collect the money in any other way, the Council can ask the Magistrates to consider sending you to prison for non payment of Council Tax.

A committal summons will be issued and at the court hearing, the Magistrates will decide whether you have deliberately refused or neglected to pay and enquire into any other reasons there may have been for non-payment.

They will enquire into your means for the period between the date of the original liability order and the present time and you must be prepared to give full details of your income and expenditure at this hearing. The magistrates will then determine the next stage. This may be a suspended Committal Order pending payment OR ultimately could mean your committal to prison for up to 90 days.

If you do not attend this hearing, a warrant for your arrest may be issued.

You can get independent advice from the following organisations:

  • Citizens Advice Bureau
  • Consumer Credit Counselling Services
  • National Debt Line
  • Christians Against Poverty

A duty solicitor may be available at Staines Magistrates Court but you should contact the Court direct before the hearing date to confirm this.

If the debt still remains outstanding following bailiff action the Council will issue a legal notice requiring you to attend a Committal hearing.

At the Committal hearing you declare your means in front of magistrates who then determine the next stage. This may be a suspended Committal Order pending payment OR ultimately could mean your committal to prison for up to 90 days.

Committal costs

Bail warrant£150
No bail warrant£150
Committal warrant£380

The Council has no power to write off the Council Tax liability on the grounds of hardship.

How to contact us

If you have received a reminder, summons or notification of Liability Order or Notice of Committal Hearing please telephone 01784 451499 from 8am-6pm Monday to Thursday and from 8am-5pm on Friday.

Up to the committal hearing mutually acceptable arrangements may be made. It is usually not appropriate to make arrangements once a taxpayer has been seen by the Magistrates at the committal hearing as the matter is taken over by the Court.