It is with disappointment today I discovered John Wilson (Central Scotland MSP) has decided not to submit a final proposal for his private member bill the Proposed Enforcement of Local Tax Arrears (Scotland) Bill. The proposal was ahead of its time as it now transpires many local authorities are dusting off old poll tax bills from over 19 years ago to raise cash for their cash strapped budgets.
The bill, which related to council tax arrears proposed:
- that local authorities should only be able to pursue council tax debts for five years, as opposed to the 20 years they are currently able to; and
- that the summary warrant procedure used to constitute council tax debts, denying debtors a right to be a fair hearing, should be abolished
The fact the bill will not be going forward in this session is a loss after being supported by Citizen Advice Scotland and Consumer Focus.
However, I would support its reintroduction in the next parliamentary session, but believe it should be strengthened to ensure
- that no debts, even once constituted by decree or its equivalent, including summary warrant, should be automatically enforceable after five years, without the permission of the court; and
- that the summary warrant procedure should not be abolished, but a right of recall introduced.
I am hoping to write a paper on these proposals in the coming week and will post them on here.