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Council tax protocol

Citizens Advice is calling on councils to commit to fair and effective debt collection.

Why things need to change

Council tax arrears is the most common debt issue we help people with. This issue has risen by a third in the last three years - at a time when other debt issues have been falling. We know from our data that poor collection practices can often make people’s debt problems worse.   

Budget constraints mean councils face significant pressure to collect all the tax they’re owed. However, where local authorities and debt advice agencies work closely together, collection processes can be improved. This leads to more early intervention to support people struggling with payments, helps prevent further charges and reduces both collection costs and demand on local public services.

The council tax protocol [ 200 kb] was developed in partnership with the Local Government Association and offers practical steps aimed at preventing people from getting into debt in the first place and outlines how to ensure enforcement agents act within the law. For a summary of the protocol, see our infographic [ 140 kb].

What we are doing

So far, 56 English local authorities have adopted our protocol, covering over 10.7m people (19% of the population in England.)

We are continuing to work with councils in order to get many more committed to better debt collection practices. Our map Google Drive shows councils who have adopted the protocol.

What we’re saying