Councils across England and Wales have been chosen to pilot a scheme that will help local authorities recover unpaid council tax - currently costing local authorities tens of millions every year.
Bolton Council is part of a group of 29 local authorities asked to be part of the trial, working with the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) and HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC).
They are the first to use powers introduced by the Digital Economy Act (2017).
Through the trial, non-paying customers who are employed or have an income will be contacted to start paying their debts, or they will have their debt deducted directly from their earnings through their employer - should they be in a financial position to do so.
This is an ‘Attachment of Earnings’ and is commonly used to recover debt. However, if a person fails to or refuses to supply their employment details, councils have been unable to recover unpaid council tax using this method.
The Digital Economy Act allows councils to obtain employer and income information from HMRC for people who have failed to pay their council tax and have an order to pay by the local magistrates’ court.
The pilot scheme will allow councils to recover millions of pounds per year in unpaid council tax, which could otherwise be used to improve services to residents.
Bolton Council is already working closely with national debt advice charities to support vulnerable residents who are struggling with debt.
If a person is found to be unemployed or does not earn above a low-income threshold, their debt will not be taken from them automatically.
Anybody who finds themselves in a position where they cannot pay their council tax should contact the local authority immediately to discuss their situation.
The pilot will last one year before being reviewed, after which a decision will be made whether to role the programme out across all councils in England and Wales.
In order to provide transparency about what data is being shared, each pilot is registered on gov.uk.
Councillor David Greenhalgh, the Leader of the Council said: “The vast majority of our residents pay their council tax every month, that helps to pay for vital services and to support some of our most vulnerable people.
“However, there are those who are avoiding paying council tax and despite our best efforts we have been unable to recover what they owe. We hope this pilot gives us the power to hold these people to account.
“Together with our partners in debt advice charities, we will continue to support those people who are struggling to make ends meet.
“Anyone who is struggling with their bill should get in touch with us straight away.”