Recovery - Unable to pay

If you are unable to pay your council tax

If you're unable to pay your Council Tax you should contact the Revenues section on 0300 1234 171 as soon as possible to discuss your personal circumstances. The longer you leave contacting us the bigger your arrears will become and the harder it will be to make a suitable payment arrangement to clear the debt.

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If you're having financial difficulties the Citizens Advice Bureau have money advisers who are available to discuss debt issues.

If you're on a low income you may qualify for Council Tax support. Please contact the benefits section to discuss further.

Information on what happens if you do not pay:

  • we will issue a reminder notice on the first occasion you fall behind with your instalment(s).
  • A maximum of two reminders will be issued in any one financial year. You will only receive a second reminder if you paid the first reminder on time, but have subsequently fallen behind with your instalment(s) on a second occasion. If a third instalment is missed, the full balance will become due and a final notice will be issued.
  • If you do not pay your instalment(s) in full within seven days of receiving a reminder notice, you will lose your right to pay by monthly instalments and we may ask you to pay the full amount you owe for the year.
  • If we do not hear from you, you will receive a summons to the Magistrates Court with further costs being added to your account. Unless the summons is served incorrectly, we will not withdraw it. At the Magistrates Court (which you have the right to attend) we will apply for a liability order which gives us certain powers to collect the debt you owe. In some circumstances we may offer you an option to pay by instalments at this stage.
  • If a mutual payment arrangement has not been made at this point, Cornwall Council may pass your debt to one of our enforcement companies. If you are unable to offer a reasonable payment plan with the enforcement company, they have the power to collect the debt by taking control of your goods. Cornwall Council also has the power to collect the debt by attaching to your earnings/benefit, applying for a bankruptcy/liquidation order, or as a last resort making an application for your committal to prison.

Enforcement Agent Action

Due to some changes in legislation, bailiffs are now known as enforcement agents, and the way they collect debts on our behalf has changed. Initially, there will be a compliance stage and a fee of £75.00 will be added to your account. During the compliance period the enforcement agent company will contact you a number of times with a view to securing payment or arranging a suitable payment plan.

Taking Control of Goods

If you do not pay the debt or agree a suitable payment plan with the enforcement company during the compliance period, they will visit you and at this stage further fees of £235.00 will be added to your account. If your debt with us is greater than £1,500 a further fee of 7.5% will be added on any part of the balance over £1,500. 

The enforcement agent will visit your property with a view to taking control of sufficient goods to be sold at auction to clear your debt and any additional costs.

Attachments of Earnings

Your employer will be ordered to make regular weekly or monthly deductions from your earnings and pay them to the Council until the debt is fully paid.

Deductions from Income Support, Job Seekers Allowance (Income based), Employment Support Allowance or Universal Credit

The Benefits Agency will be requested to make weekly deductions from your Benefits and pay them directly to the Council until the debt is fully paid.


The authority may file for a bankruptcy petition with the County Courts for any debt over £5000.


If the authority is unable (for whatever reason) to collect the debt via referral to enforcement agents, attachment of earnings or deductions from benefit then the authority may apply to the Magistrates Court for a means enquiry with a view to the committal to prison of the debtor.

Q. What happens if I am unable to pay my bill?

A. On the first occasion you do not pay an instalment by the due date, we will commence recovery action. It is important you contact us as soon as possible regarding your arrears. The longer you leave contacting us the bigger your arrears will become, and the harder it will be to make a suitable recovery arrangement to clear the debt. Call us in confidence on 0300 1234 171 or alternatively use the contact details shown on this page.

Q.  What happens if I ignore your reminders?

A. The next step is for a summons to be issued asking you to appear at the local Magistrates Court.

Q.  I have received a Summons, what can I do?

A.  You should pay the full amount straight away. If the total balance is paid in full (including the summons costs) before the court date, then no further proceedings will take place. If you are unable to pay the full amount before the date of the hearing you should contact the Revenues section to discuss a payment plan. If your proposals are accepted you need not appear before the Magistrates but the liability order will be issued in your absence, which will be held by the Council pending payment of the arrangement.

At the hearing the costs incurred by the issue of the summons (if applicable) and additional liability order costs will be added to your outstanding balance when the application is made to the Magistrates for the liability order.

Q. If I have agreed a payment plan will a Liability Order still be issued?

A. Yes. However, it will not be used if you keep to the agreed payment plan.

Q. Why do I have to pay costs?

A. The council incurs additional expense in preparing and issuing a summons for non-payment, along with the application for the liability order.

Q. What is a Liability Order?

A. Liability order is a statement from the Magistrates Court that you owe an amount of Council Tax and costs. It gives the Council additional powers to enforce the debt.

Q. What powers does a Liability Order give to the Council?

A. If you do not pay the full amount within 14 days of the court hearing or have not made a special payment arrangement, the Council will decide, dependent upon individual circumstances, which method of enforcement is most appropriate in your case.

Q. I've received a letter from an enforcement company, what should I do?

A. If you have received any correspondence from the enforcement company you must contact them immediately (see contact details below).

For further details please contact the Revenues section using the address shown on your bill or by using the details shown on the right hand side of this page.



Tel: 0844 7013980
Fax: 01706 831126


Tel: 0844 561 8807


Website: 0845 6012692
Fax: 0151 6504999

Marstons Group

Tel: 0845 0766262  
Fax: 01992 703703