09/12/2019

Use of Sheriff Officers by Scottish Councils increases by 15%

09/12/2019

Use of Sheriff Officers by Scottish Councils increases by 15%

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New statistics have shown that Scottish Councils last year sent Sheriff Officers to the doors of people in arrears with their Council Tax on more than 200,000 occasions, to serve Charge for Payments on them.

Charges for Payments are legal demands for payment and are served on by Sheriff Officers to demand payment of debts, only giving 14 days for the debt to be paid.

The figures, published by Scotland’s Insolvency Service, the Accountant in Bankruptcy, are contained in the Scottish Diligence Statistics and also show that Scottish Council also instructed Sheriff Officers on nearly 240,000 other occasions to take enforcement actions against those in arrears.

What do the figures show?

What the figures are confirming is what we have been increasingly aware of for some time in Carrington Dean and that is more and more Scots are struggling to make ends meet and are going into arrears with their council tax.

Earlier this year we highlighted this when we revealed that in a survey we undertook, we looked at 5,302 Protected Trust Deeds (granted between 2011 and 2019) and in 60% of those cases, people had council tax debts, with the average amount being £3,071.93.

However, what the new figures also show is it not just about people running up more debt, but also about councils taking an increasingly tougher approach against those in arrears, with them instructing Sheriff Officers in more and more cases.

What is Diligence?

Diligence in Scotland is a legal term that describes a variety of different court procedures that Sheriff Officers can use when recovering debts.

It includes actions like wage arrestments, bank arrestments and the attachment of cars.

Overall there has been a 15% increase in the number of these actions being taking by Sheriff Officers for Council Tax arrears.

However, one type of Diligence that has grown more than any other is bank arrestments, with 167,356 arrestments being executed in 2018/19.

These types of actions freeze the funds in people’s bank accounts when there is more than £529.30 in the account.

The number of bank arrestments being carried for Council Tax increased by 21% on the previous year, when there was only 138,021 executed.

The next most common type of Diligence carried out for Council Tax was wage arrestments, but there were only 71,835 of these and the number carried out only increased by 4% on the previous year.

Council are bucking the Trend

However, what the figures also show is that local authorities, more than any other creditor, are willing to resort to Sheriff Officers when it comes to non-payment of debts.

The Scottish Diligence Statistics also show that whilst the number of actions being taken by Council Tax increased, the number of actions being taken by other Creditors, such as banks, HMRC and finance firms dropped by 39% over the same period.

This included nearly 46% less bank arrestments.

What should you do if you owe Council Tax Debt?

The message is clear, council tax arrears are now a major problem debt for Scottish consumers and no-one should be in any doubt that local authorities are willing to take tough enforcement action to recover the debts owed to them.

This includes wage arrestments, bank arrestments and attaching cars.

Even instances of Sheriff Officers entering someone’s home, to seize goods increased, known as executing an Exceptional Attachment Order, with it occurring in 225 cases (up 23% on the previous year), whilst all other creditors only done it on 4 occasions over the same period.

However, Sheriff Officers are not the only people with powers.

Scotland’s debt laws have a variety of different tools that people struggling with debt can use and can protect them from Sheriff Officers, such a Protected Trust Deed, Sequestration and the Debt Arrangement Scheme.

Importantly once someone enters such a solution, they are protected from further action by Sheriff Officers and even existing wage arrestments can be lifted and brought to an end.

The key thing is to get advice, rather than ignore the problem.

If you are struggling with Council Tax debts, it is clear Scotland’s local authorities are not in the mood for ignoring the problem.

If you would like to speak with a Carrington Dean Money Adviser give us a call for free confidential, advice.

You could write off up to 75% of unsecured debt with our debt assistant.

Get help with council tax debts

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