Councillors will discuss plans for a new in-house enforcement agency when they meet next week.

Durham County Council is proposing to establish its own internal enforcement service, to assist with the collection of outstanding debt.

Unpaid Council Tax, Business Rates, parking fines, fixed penalty notices and other debts, could potentially be collected by the council’s own enforcement agents, if Cabinet approves the plans when it meets on Wednesday, 16 October.

Running its own internal enforcement agency will mean the council will have more direct control over the standards of behaviour and actions taken by the service, with its own values and behaviours embedded throughout.

Currently the council has contracts with two external agencies which are due to expire at the end of June 2020.

If plans go ahead, the new service will commence in the July and would provide the opportunity for approximately £265,000 to be made in savings across 2020/21 and 2021/22.

One external agent company would still be required to assist with out of county debt collections.

Cllr Alan Napier, Durham County Council’s Cabinet member for finance, said: “Providing more support for customers who may be struggling financially is at the heart of these proposals.

“As they will be working closely with other teams across the council, our own agents will have the knowledge to be able to signpost individuals who may need support to other partners.

“They will also be able to identify and promote entitlements to discounts, exemption and reliefs to maximise income for Council Tax and Business Rates payers.”

Having greater control of the service means the council can also implement the Citizens Advice Council Tax Protocol – a best practice model for debt management and recovery developed in partnership with the Local Government Association.

Cabinet is being asked to adopt the protocol which offers practical steps aimed at preventing people from getting into debt and outlines how to ensure enforcement agents act lawfully.

Cllr Napier added: “We acknowledge that Council Tax payers and residents receive a better level of service when councils, enforcement agents and debt advice agencies work closely together.

“Early intervention and making proactive contact with those who are struggling with bill payments can prevent them for occurring additional charges, and at the same time alleviate stress impacting on their lives.”

Cabinet will meet at County Hall on Wednesday, 16 October at 10am.