COUNCIL tax dodgers could be forced to give up their homes if a hard-hitting new policy is introduced next week.
Wakefield Council’s Cabinet committee is expected to approve a new Charging Order policy on Tuesday, in a drive to recover £17.1m it is currently owed in council tax.
The policy would leave people who have racked up years worth of debts having to face the courts, where they could be made to sell their properties at a price set by magistrates.
Coun Graham Stokes, Cabinet member for corporate performance, said: “Council tax is used to provide the district’s residents with vital services and everything we do is reliant on the money being paid on time. When this doesn’t happen we have a duty to those who have paid to pursue payment from those who do not.”
The Charging Order policy would only affect tax-payers who owe more than £1,000 on a property which they own.
The order places a charge on the debtor’s property such as a house or piece of land. This is paid to the council if the property or land is sold.
In extreme cases the council could press for an Order of Sale, forcing the property onto the market so that it can recoup the money owed.
Coun Stokes added: “The council fully understands that we are all facing very difficult financial challenges and we do everything we can to assist those experiencing genuine difficulty paying.
“However, we must continue delivering vital services and we have a duty to our customers to do everything in our power to ensure everyone liable to pay council tax does so.”
A Cabinet report released this week said 443 accounts in Wakefield currently owe more than £1,000, with 59 owing more than £3,000.
The report also stressed that the new policy would only be used in “appropriate circumstances” and that an Order of Sale would only be applied after consultation with the council’s Open Door Project, which works to prevent homelessness.