City of Wolverhampton Council has become the first local authority in the country to sign up to a new protocol to promote best practice for dealing with people who get into difficulties paying their council tax.

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The council is delighted to be the first signatory of the revised Citizens Advice Council Tax Protocol.

The protocol has been created to get local authorities, enforcement agencies and advice agencies working together to help people pay their council tax bills while accessing debt advice when needed.

Councillor Andrew Johnson, City of Wolverhampton Council's cabinet member for resources, signed the protocol on behalf of the council last week alongside Helen Child, chief officer at Citizens Advice Wolverhampton.

By signing the document, the council has been recognised for its commitment to continue improving the information supplied to council tax payers about the billing process and how to get support and debt advice.

There will also be a greater emphasis on partnership working with more regular meetings with agencies like Citizens Advice and others.

Councillor Johnson said: "We are very pleased to be the first council in the country to sign this new protocol with Citizens Advice.

"There are all sorts of reasons why people might struggle to pay their council tax bills and this protocol is all about how we can work with people to support them so that they can pay their bills without getting into greater financial difficulties.

"We have a duty to collect the money owed, but we want to do so in a fair way and only go down the enforcement route when other avenues are exhausted."

Helen Child, chief officer at Wolverhampton Citizens Advice, said: "Council tax arrears is one of the major causes of debt issues seen by Citizens Advice Wolverhampton. We know from our casework how poor collection practices can often exacerbate a resident's debt problems. This can contribute to more stress, anxiety or other mental health issues which, in turn, can hinder employment prospects and lead to more calls for assistance from the council and its partners.

"When local authorities and debt advice agencies work closely together, collection processes can be improved, with more early intervention to assist people struggling with payments, helping prevent further charges, alleviate stress and reduce both collection costs and demand on local public services."

  • released: Thursday 20 July 2017