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Council tax - finding it difficult to pay

What happens if you cannot pay your council tax and how to ask for help

Council tax reduction

If you have a low income, or are receiving certain benefits, you may be entitled to a council tax reduction. If you are looking for information about Council Tax Reduction (which replaced Council Tax Benefit from 1 April 2013), you can find out here about:

We also have information about council tax exemptions and discounts - find out what's available and how to apply here

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Craignure Pier

Council tax enquiries

What happens if you can't pay

If you are having difficulty paying council tax, please contact us at the earliest opportunity to see what we can do. We may be able to agree an alternative payment plan, or assist you with applying for a council tax reduction.

What happens if you don't pay your council tax

If you don't pay your council tax, there are a number of steps we will take:

If you fail to pay any part of any instalment by the date it is due, we will send you a reminder for the amount of the unpaid instalment. You must pay this within seven days.  If you fail to pay the amount shown on the reminder within seven days, you will lose the right to pay by instalments. You will have to pay the full outstanding balance within another seven days.  If you fail to pay the full outstanding balance within 14 days of this date (and within 28 days of the date of original reminder), we will apply for a Summary Warrant (a legal document that allows us to add 10% to the amount you already owe and to ask a Sheriff to take legal action against you). We will add this 10% to your account.

We can only issue two reminders within any financial year.  If you fail to pay the second reminder within seven days, we may immediately apply for a summary warrant.

Summary Warrant action can lead to:

  • you being asked for details of your employment and bank accounts
  • your earnings and bank accounts being arrested
  • deductions being made from your Income Support or Jobseekers allowance
  • Sheriff Officers being involved in the recovery process

Water and Sewerage charges

Water Direct

Council Tax, Water and Sewerage charges are billed together within the same notification. Many people in receipt of 100% Council Tax Reduction do not realise that they are still liable to pay at least 75% of their Water and Sewerage charges and can therefore get into debt. Water Direct is a scheme adopted by many Scottish local authorities to recover not only historic debt from customers, but also current water and sewerage charges through deductions to customer’s benefits.

Ƶapp Council adopted this scheme in April 2018 and will apply for deductions from Department of Works and Pensions (DWP) benefits for customers who do not pay their water and sewerage charges on the expiry of their reminder notice. The amount of the deduction is based on the amount of current year liability for water and sewerage and any outstanding liability for previous periods back to 1 April 2018. 

The scheme protects the customer from their account going to summary warrant and attracting the statutory 10% addition which increases the debt. This is because accounts where the Council applies to the DWP for Water Direct deductions do not go to summary warrant and therefore no statutory addition can be applied. This prevents the customer from falling further into debt.

In order to stop the deductions the Council will require the customer to bring their account up to date by paying the arrears outstanding or by setting up a direct debit to pay for any Council Tax and Water and Sewerage charges. In order to do this the customer should call 01546 605515.

There may be some customers who cannot pay their outstanding water and sewerage charges and are having their DWP benefits reduced through the Water Direct scheme. The Council understands that in some cases this can cause financial hardship, potentially leaving customers without enough to live on or displacing other debt repayment arrangements. If this is the case then the Council will work with customers to look at suitable ways to reduce debt and bring accounts back up to date. In order to arrange this the customer should contact;

  • The Council’s Money Advice Service
  • Ƶapp Citizens Advice Bureau 01546 605 550
  • Bute Advice Centre 01700 502784
  • HELP (for 16-25 year olds in Dunoon and Rothesay) 01369 707600
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