The IMA and PayPlan launched a joint campaign against imprisonment for the non-payment of Council Tax at the IMA’s annual conference in Bristol in May 2017.
The IMA and leading free debt advice service PayPlan have joined forces to campaign for an end to the ‘legal anomaly’ that gives courts the power to imprison householders for up to three months if they do not pay what they owe.
Council tax debt is not a crime but magistrates in England and Wales can and do still send some people with council tax arrears to prison.
The campaign coincides with a report published on 27 November 2017 by PayPlan and the IMA, highlighting the negative impact of court action on families and individuals.
Download the full report here: I can’t believe we still do that: the case for ending imprisonment for council tax debt in England and Wales
In the report, figures obtained via a Freedom of Information request show that 99 out of 279 local authorities took court action for imprisonment against 4,817 people in 2016/17 – a rise of more than 10 per cent compared to 2012/13.
Robert Wilson, Chief Executive of the Institute of Money Advisers, said:
“Imprisonment serves little purpose because the debt still remains at the end. Instead of being supported with realistic payment plans, our members report that too often people are being penalised with court fees and harsh collection activity by their local council.
“Imprisonment does not clear their debt – in fact, it usually increases it further. Putting people in prison makes it harder for them to make payments and can cause chaos in their work and family life. On top of that, tax payers also have to meet the costs of prison.
“As well as action by government and local councils, we need improved training for magistrates and court staff. Dealing with the growing number of people who have serious money problems requires expertise. Debt is complicated, and officials need an informed, professional understanding of the realities of living with financial difficulty. We would like to see the courts and the Ministry of Justice working more closely with money advisers”.
The PayPlan and IMA report was officially published at the Money Advice Liaison Group (MALG) Conference, an industry event held in London on 27 November.