Agenda and minutes
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Contact: Susan Gardner Democratic Services (01254) 380184
Apologies for Absence and Substitutions
Apologies for absence were submitted on behalf of Bernard Dawson and Doug Hayes.
Declarations of Interest and Dispensations
There were no declarations of interest or dispensations.
To submit the Minutes of the Communities and Wellbeing Overview and Scrutiny Committee held on 11th July 2019 for approval as a correct record.
The Minutes of the meeting of the Communities and Wellbeing Overview and Scrutiny Committee held on Thursday, 11th July 2019 were submitted for approval as a correct record.
Resolved - That the Minutes be received and approved as a correct record.
To receive a report on council tax collection and recovery.
The Customer Contact Manager submitted a report on Council Tax Collection and Recovery to provide the Overview and Scrutiny Committee with an overview of the Council Tax and NNDR Collection and Recovery Policy and methods used by the Council in the collection and recovery of Council Tax arrears. To discuss the report the Customer Contact Centre Manager, Rachael Walker, the Revenues Manager, Lee Middlehurst and Cabinet Portfolio Holder for Resources, Councillor Joyce Plummer were all in attendance at the meeting.
The Contact Centre Manager referred to Member concerns that residents were being subject to unfair processes in relation to the collection of council tax arrears and the comparisons that had been made between Rossendale and Hyndburn Borough Councils. She pointed out that there were some subtle differences in how the two Councils conducted business but explained that Hyndburn Council had more ways of offering support and provided examples of this. She informed the Committee that Hyndburn Borough Council had acted fairly in carrying out its business and that Rossendale Borough Council had referred more cases to the Bailiff/Enforcement Agents, and that this had been confirmed by the Manager of the Citizens Advice Bureau for Rossendale and Hyndburn.
Councillor Plummer, Cabinet Portfolio for Resources, informed the Committee, for clarity, that Rossendale Bailiffs were used by the Council as an enforcement agency rather than Rossendale Borough Council.
Members had submitted questions, in advance, to the Officers concerned in respect of the following:
· Councillor concerns regarding the wording used in letters sent to residents.
· There should be more contact with residents who are in arrears by person rather than by letter.
· Letters should be available in different languages.
· What percentage of those summoned receive Universal Credit?
· Daily reminder letters seemed excessive.
· Is the lower limit for summons too low?
· Is there provision for affordability assessments when recovering debts?
· When are external agencies sent to recover debts?
· What criteria was used to set fees in comparison to other agencies?
· How many cases actually get to the bailiff stage?
· How many people in debt were referred to other agencies?
· How many of the Agencies used were regulated?
· What was the policy for refunding overpayments?
· Which areas of the Borough are more likely to miss Council Tax payments?
· What action is being taken to increase the rates of direct debit payment?
· How often is the Collection and Recover Policy reviewed?
· A request for further information on the trial scheme to support the debt management work done at CARH?
Councillor Plummer, Cabinet Portfolio Holder for Resources, provided responses to the above advanced questions. On the request of the Chair, she circulated copies of two sample letters sent to residents to recover council tax arrears. She informed the meeting that there was not currently an option of providing letters in other languages as this would be too expensive to implement. She pointed out that Officers who responded to residents questions and requests were all fully trained in negotiation of payments and that legislation directed much of what the ... view the full minutes text for item 100.
A report was requested from the Department of Work and Pensions regarding the impacts of the roll out of Universal Credit on the residents of Hyndburn.
The Chair explained that a report had been requested from the Department of Works and Pensions on the impact of the roll out of Universal Credit to residents in Hyndburn. He informed the meeting that they had received a report and although the Department of Works and Pensions had not sent a representative to the meeting they had agreed to meet with Councillors outside of the meeting.
Resolved - That the report be noted.