Deferred from the previous meeting - Following consideration of a report of the Deputy Chief Executive (S151), the Corporate Manager of Revenues, Benefits & Recovery and the Principal Revenues and Benefits Officer, the Audit Committee has recommended that the updated Corporate Recovery Policy be approved.
To receive a report from the Deputy Chief Executive (S151), the Corporate Manager of Revenues, Benefits & Recovery and the Principal Revenues and Benefits Officer presenting an updated policy that identifies where responsibility for collection of different debts lies and sets out the principles and standards in relation to contact, recovery process, repayments and benefit / money advice.
The Committee had before it a report * from the Deputy Chief Executive (S151) and Corporate Manager of Revenues, Benefits & Recovery and the Principal Revenues & Benefits Officer providing it with an updated policy that identified where responsibility for collection of different debts lay and set out the principles and standards in relation to contact, recovery process, repayments and benefit / money advice.
The contents of the report were outlined with reference to the following:
· Included in the policy was the provision of support mechanisms and practices to all customers. It detailed the approach to collecting debt in Mid Devon.
· The policy set the framework for a consistent and sensitive approach to collecting debt whilst at the same time ensuring that the Council continued to maximise income collection and arrears recovery performance.
· The policy would be supported by a ‘process knowledge centre’ helping officers to follow due process when seeking payment. This was a work in progress, time would be spent to make sure best practice was used.
· The policy also required a ‘vulnerability protocol’ this was also a work in progress and would work in line with policy and legal change.
· New legislation was due to come into force in May 2021 called ‘Breathing Space’ and as such policy and procedures needed to be aligned.
· Debts Covered By the Policy
Consideration was given to:
· A small number of minor typo’s that needed correcting within the policy.
· The cost to the Council of the translation service.
· The need for sensitivity regarding debt during the current pandemic and the effect upon people’s finances.
· The Government scheme to compensate council’s up to 75% in order to mitigate against income losses..
· The Council employed a Welfare Officer who was able to signpost individuals to support agencies such as CAB, CHAT and ‘Navigate’ who provide debt advice. In addition to this information was provided on the correspondence sent out to people to help signpost them to agencies that could provide more practical help.
· It was getting more difficult to collect taxation due to the current financial hardship faced by so many. The service was a lot more understanding of individual debt situations and worked with people on a 1:1 basis where necessary. It was not about ‘writing off’ debt but about giving individuals more time to pay. There were varying funds that the Council was able to dip into in order to support this process, for example, the food voucher scheme.
· More information would be shared with Members regarding the protocol which would be used to engage with its external stakeholders to deliver on its promise to help the vulnerable as it becomes available. It was confirmed that the Government’s new ‘Breathing Space’ period would freeze interest, fees and enforcement for people in problem debt, with further protections for those in mental health crisis treatment.
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