If an Attachment of Earnings Order is issued and the customer makes contact to advise that it will cause financial difficulties, a fixed attachment amount can be considered if information about their financial situation supports this.
If an arrangement to pay is not entered into after a Liability Order is granted an attachment of benefit will normally be considered if the customer is in receipt of Income Support or Job Seekers Allowance (Income Based). If there are non dependants in the household and the customer is not entitled to full Council Tax Benefit as a result, the customer will be asked to make a payment arrangement and recovery action will be taken if the arrangement is not kept to.
Distress proceedings (i.e. the use of bailiffs) will only be taken against customers after consideration of individual circumstances.
Bankruptcy and Charging Orders will only be considered in exceptional circumstances.
A Summons for a means enquiry will be issued if all other methods of recovery have been exhausted. At this stage the emphasis should still be on making contact with the customer and encouraging them to discuss the situation with a member of staff. Information about the Corporate Debt Officer, Stockport Debtline, the Citizens Advice Bureaux, Advice and Information Centres and Welfare Rights will be provided at this stage.
Both current expenditure and other debt repayments will be taken into account when making payment arrangements.
Where there are non-priority debts being repaid and the customer is unable to make an acceptable offer of repayment they will be advised about the debt advice services in Stockport, for example Stockport Debtline, Stockport Law Centre and Citizens Advice Bureaux.
Payment arrangements should firstly aim to clear the debt by the end of the current financial year. If this is not financially possible then arrangements made should be to cover the current year’s instalments and an amount off the arrears. The customer will need to be aware that they will need to contact us when they receive a bill for the new financial year, to reset a payment arrangement to include the new bill and the arrears.
It is good practice to regularly review payment arrangements that are going to take a number of years to clear the debt.
A financial statement can be requested at any point in the recovery process if a customer is stating that they are having difficulties making payments and cannot pay what is being asked. It should be emphasized that this is in the customer’s interest as well as the Council’s because it should ensure any arrangements made are sustainable. The officer dealing with the financial statement should also ensure that benefit entitlements are maximised, by referral to Welfare Rights, Advice and Information Service or Citizens Advice