Plans by Luton Labour to charge residents for making Council Tax arrangements have been dealt a serious blow through helpful new Government rules on Council Tax payments.
Luton Council planned to introduce £12 Arrangement Fees from February for residents who may have missed a payment, and wanted longer to pay. Local Liberal Democrats have criticised the Fees, pointing to often difficult one-off financial circumstances for those wanting but struggling to pay, especially in December and January. The Lib Dems have “called in” the decision to a Scrutiny Committee to look more closely at the effect on those in low paid work, not least on top of the £12 Failed Direct Debit Fees already introduced by Labour.
However, recently introduced Government regulations now give residents the right to officially pay Council Tax over 12 months, rather than on the traditional 10 month schedule.
In order to avoid Labour’s proposed Arrangement Fees, residents who may have missed a payment just need to ask for their account to be “re-profiled” – NOT for an “Arrangement.” As long as all payments are made by March, there is NO FEE for this.
Councillor Martin Pantling, who has led criticism of Labour’s Failed Direct Debit and Arrangement Fees, said:
“I am always keen that residents avoid unnecessary fees, so the Law change allowing official Council Tax instalments over 12 months not 10 will be of real help to those struggling to meet their monthly payments.”
“The timing is ideal. People are often hard-pressed before and after Christmas, and many residents will want to spread the burden without the Council adding on an extra Fee. The way to do this is to ask for payments to be ‘Re-profiled’ within the year. As long as they then keep with their payments up to March, they will avoid Labour’s Arrangement Fees.”
“While the Council still plan to send out Bills this year based on 10 instalments, residents will be advised of their legal right to pay over 12 months.”
“I still suggest residents pay by Standing Order or Payment Card however, as this avoids the possibility of a £12 Council charge on top of Bank or Building Society fees for Failed Direct Debits. Do Labour really believe that people who set up Direct Debits want them to fail?”
The Liberal Democrats have however WELCOMED a belated move by Labour to exempt those on Council Tax Benefit or Council Tax Support from their punitive Fees.