Why have I received a Summons?
The Council relies on prompt payment of Council Tax. If you do not make payments on time, the Council may not be able to provide all essential services to the residents of Sefton. The Council’s records show that the amount(s) due have not been paid as demanded and consequently, recovery action has been taken against you in order to protect the Council’s interests. The Summons includes costs, which have now been incurred. If the total amount due, including costs, is not paid before the hearing, and Sefton Council proves that the sums are due, the court will be asked to grant a Liability Order against you, in your name. Details of the action that can be taken against you are shown on the back of your Summons. Further costs may be incurred if any of these actions are taken.
Do I have to attend court?
You do not have to attend court: -
- If you do not dispute that you owe the amount due.
- If the total amount due, including costs is paid before the date of the hearing.
If you are unable to pay the full amount on the summons?
If you are having difficulty paying the full payment, you must contact us as soon as possible with your proposed payment arrangement by completing the online payment arrangement form found in the Do it online section of this web page.
All payment arrangements must be made with the agreement of the Council and can only be accepted by Direct Debit, that way we can enter a formal arrangement on your account and make sure that no further action is taken as long as you keep to the agreed payment arrangement.
The Council will still apply for a Liability Order but undertake not to take any further proceedings if you make the payments as agreed.
What if I dispute the debt?
- If you dispute that you owe the amount due or that you are responsible for the property contact the Council immediately.
- The Council will attempt to resolve any dispute before the court hearing date. If the dispute cannot be resolved, your right to ask the Magistrates to consider your case is unaffected.
If I attend court what are the Magistrates unable to consider?
- Your ability to pay i.e. your financial circumstances.
- Any reasons you may wish to give for withholding payment. For example, questions of principle or unresolved disputes with other Council departments.
- Whether an appeal has been made against the banding of your property.
You will be summonsed to appear at the Magistrates Court in Bootle to explain why you have not paid, and if the Court grants the Liability Order you will be liable to pay additional court costs as well as your outstanding Council Tax.
A Liability Order allows the Council to ask you to provide information about your employment and income. Failure to supply this information is a criminal offence and the council may prosecute you in the Magistrates Court. The penalty, if you are convicted, is a fine of up to £500 plus an order to pay court costs. However, only in those cases where the requested information is not supplied, or there is an unacceptable payment offer made, or an arrangement to pay is broken, will further recovery action be taken.
If it is considered necessary, then the Council can choose any of the following methods to enforce payment
- Order your employer to make deductions from your wages
- Ask the DWP to make deductions from your Jobseekers Allowance, Income Support or Employment Support Allowance
- Instruct an Enforcement Agent to take control of your goods and sell your belongings
With effect from 6th April 2014 The Taking Control of Goods Regulations 2013 and The Taking Control of Goods (Fees) Regulations 2014 come into effect.
If Enforcement Agents are instructed to recover a debt, the initial ‘’Compliance Stage’’ costs will be £75.00 and all queries concerning that debt must then be made directly to the Enforcement Agent and not to Sefton Council.
If ‘’Enforcement’’ is necessary, an additional £235.00 becomes due. The Enforcement Agents may make a list of your goods, but as long as you agree to an acceptable payment arrangement, they will only remove the goods if you do not keep to the agreement.
If the Enforcement Agent remove your goods, they can sell them and use the money to repay the debt. Further costs of £110.00 are due if your goods are removed and sold.
Therefore, early contact to the Enforcement Agency reduces the amount of costs you have to pay.
If one of those options does not result in an acceptable payment arrangement being made and adhered to, the Council may then consider
- Registering a Charging Order against your property
- Applying to the County Court to make you bankrupt
- Applying to the Magistrates Court for you to be sent to prison