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Councils across England and Wales have chosen to pilot a scheme that will help local authorities recover unpaid Council Tax – currently costing English local authorities around £3 billion at 31 March 2018, from the introduction of council tax in 1993.

Eastbourne Borough Council is one of 29 local authorities taking part in the trial working with HMRC to be the first to use the debt information sharing powers introduced by the Digital Economy Act (2017).

Through the trial, non-paying customers who are employed or have an income will be contacted to start paying their debts, or they will have their debt deducted directly from their earnings through their employer.

The Act allows councils to obtain employer and income information from HMRC for people who have failed to pay their Council Tax and have an order to pay by the local magistrates court.

The pilot allows councils to work with HMRC to share employment information that will allow Eastbourne Borough Council to help manage and recover unpaid Council Tax, which could be used to improve services to residents.

Eastbourne Borough Council already works closely with debt advice providers to support vulnerable residents who are struggling with debt.

Anybody who finds themselves in a position where they cannot pay their Council Tax should contact the local authority immediately to discuss their situation.

The pilot will last one year before being reviewed, then a decision will be made whether to roll the programme to all councils in England and Wales.

In order to provide transparency about what data is being shared each pilot is registered on gov.uk.

Councillor Alan Shuttleworth, Cabinet Member for Direct Assistance Services, said: “The vast majority of Eastbourne residents pay their Council Tax every month that helps to pay for vital services and to support some of the town’s most vulnerable people.

“It is wholly unfair that there is a minority of people in the borough who benefit from, but refuse to contribute to, the collective pot at a time when local authorities are relying more and more heavily on Council Tax to deliver vital services.

“We will continue to support those people who are struggling to make ends meet, but it’s time for those who are avoiding Council Tax to play their part and we hope this pilot gives us the power to hold these people to account.”