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Council set to appoint debt collector to tackle rent and tax arrears in South Tyneside

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Council chiefs have announced their preferred contractor to tackle rent and tax arrears in the boropugh.

If given the go ahead, Marston Holdings Ltd - the UK’s largest judicial services group - will be given the contract to deal with those who fail to pay their bills on time.

Though we rigorously pursue debts, we are of course concerned when people fall behind with payments and would urge anyone in this situation to contact us as soon as possible

Council spokesman

The decision will be made at the meeting of the council’s cabinet, at South Shields Town Hall on Wednesday, where the recommendation is set to be rubber stamped.

As well as enforcing failed debt payments - on behalf of South Tyneside Council and South Tyneside Homes - the firm will also take from debtors at the local authority’s request.

In October last year, housing chiefs admitted they were trying to claw back £2m owed by 7,000 of the council’s 18,000 tenanted households – an average arrears of £285 each.

Last year, 3,000 cases were referred to an enforcement agency. Of these around 40% were resolved without the need for a visit from an enforcement agent.

A council spokesman said: “We do all we can to maximise our collection rates, though recovery can take time and in some cases we are not able to recover the debt in the financial year in which is it due. We currently collect around 99% of Council Tax and Business Rates debt, which amounts to around £90m a year.

“We remain committed to improving our collection rates and promote direct debit, debit card payments and payments through the council’s website and PayPoint to encourage taxpayers to pay their accounts on time. We have also given taxpayers greater flexibility over the method of payment, frequency and amount.

“We also take action against any non-payers, though court action. The use of enforcement agents is always a last resort.

“Over recent years our use of enforcement agents has reduced - which is a positive step forward. However in some cases we are left with no other option but to take this course of recovery action.

“Though we rigorously pursue debts, we are of course concerned when people fall behind with payments and would urge anyone in this situation to contact us as soon as possible so that we can explore flexible repayment arrangements that take people’s circumstances into consideration.”