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Mid Suffolk, Babergh and Ipswich councils introduce council tax fines for those who don't tell of changes in circumstances

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Fines for people who fail to inform their council of a change in circumstances have been given approval at three Suffolk authorities.

Ipswich, Babergh and Mid Suffolk councils all agreed to introduce the new council tax policy at their respective cabinet meetings last week.

It means that anyone who fails to inform the council of any changes in their circumstances surrounding council tax – such as single person discount, liability orders or changes of address, will be slapped with a £70 fine.

Mid Suffolk District Council, Endeavour House (26623681)
Mid Suffolk District Council, Endeavour House (26623681)

If a request is made and not responded to, that fine can be hiked up to £280.

According to the three authorities, councils are legally entitled to obtain information from residents, owners or managing agents in regard to council tax.

Ipswich Borough Council leader David Ellesmere said: “We do undertake sweeps of people claiming single person discount and we have reduced a significant number of people from that when they are no longer eligible.

“We do this every year but it still goes up every year.

“We take them off in the annual sweep, but people are chancing their luck.

“We need to do this so people who are paying the right amount are not paying more than they need to.”

Ipswich Borough Council has a dedicated team shared with East Suffolk Council to combat fraud, which includes council tax, tenancy, Right to Buy and blue badge misuse among others.

John Whitehead, Mid Suffolk’s cabinet member for finance said: “To me this is a no-brainer and I am pleased there is general consensus on this matter.

“This should further encourage authorities to keep council tax payers up to date.”

Conservative leader at Babergh, John Ward, said: “We are committed to taking a proactive approach in preventing and reducing council tax fraud, as well as working closely with our enforcement agents and Citizens Advice so we can improve collection processes.

“Through early intervention to help residents struggling with council tax payments we can help prevent further charges, alleviate stress and reduce collection costs.”

All three authorities have online pages where details can be updated.

According to finance papers for Babergh and Mid Suffolk, it could bring in up to £18,000 a year each, although both have stressed it is not a money making exercise.