Sheffield Council to get tough on unpaid tax

Queues outside court after 7,000 people received summonses
Queues outside court after 7,000 people received summonses

Sheffield Council is being urged to take a tougher stance on council tax dodgers – with opposition councillors urging bailiffs to be used to recover more debt.

Figures have been released which show 15,424 Sheffield households owing council tax and other penalties such as parking fines were visited by bailiffs over the past year – compared with 77,883 in Birmingham.

Council tax summonses at Sheffield Magistrates' Court

Council tax summonses at Sheffield Magistrates' Court

The West Midlands city sent bailiffs to the most addresses of any council in the country.

Sheffield Council sent bailiffs to businesses 1,284 times, compared with 4,446 times in Birmingham over the same period.

The figures mean Sheffield came 20th in a table showing the extent councils use bailiffs for debt recovery.

More than £8 million of council tax arrears are owed in Sheffield from 2012-13.

Elsewhere in South Yorkshire, Doncaster used bailiffs against 10,000 households over the last year, while the totals for Barnsley and Rotherham were each more than 6,000.

Coun Shaffaq Mohammed, Sheffield Council’s opposition Liberal Democrat leader, said: “These figures show the Labour council is one of the softest when it comes to cracking down on council tax dodgers.

“While turning to bailiffs should always be a last resort, the vast majority of people who do pay their bills have a right to ask why Sheffield’s Labour councillors are failing to take action.”

Coun Bryan Lodge, Sheffield Council’s cabinet member for finance and resources, said: “The main council services that use bailiffs are the revenues service and parking services. The collection of these debts is a matter we take very seriously - we need that revenue for vital services.

“We give people many opportunities to pay, but if they choose to refuse we are prepared to use bailiffs. The companies we use must comply with the council’s recovery policy as well as the Bailiff’s Code of Conduct. We take any complaints of aggressive tactics very seriously.”