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The financial year has ended in Highland with the Council Tax collection rate rising to an all time high of 92.21%, with more than 48,000 households now paying by Direct Debit. And since the Council Tax was introduced in 1993, the Council has collected all but 4% of what was due for the initial years of the tax.

This good news was reported by Councillor Ella MacRae, Vice-Chairman of The Highland Councilís Resources Committee, who paid tribute to the effective work of the Council finance staff in achieving continuous improvement and one of the best collection rates in Scotland.

She said the Council was committed to collecting every penny of Council Tax, Non-Domestic Rates and Community Charge monies, which remain unpaid. "If we do not collect the taxes, essential services could well suffer or those willing to pay will have to pay more."

Councillor MacRae was one of the councillors who received a bogus Council Tax poinding notice on Easter Friday from the Scottish Socialist Party.

She said: "The action taken by the two firms of sheriff officers employed by the Council to collect unpaid local taxes is carried out strictly in accordance with the legislation. Sheriff Officers are appointed as officers of the court and subject to court scrutiny and their diligence in recovery has helped us to collect all but 4% of Council Tax billed for the early years of the tax. The legislation is be amended at the end of this year, but, as yet, the changes have not yet been notified and we will continue to use the current legislation until the changes come into effect."

The Council notifies Council Tax debtors when their account has progressed to summary warrant. This gives the customer the opportunity to set up a payment arrangement and stop the debt being passed to the sheriff officer for collection.  If no contact is made, the debt is passed to the sheriff officer, who issues a final demand notice requesting a payment.  If the customer does not respond to this letter or does not offer a reasonable repayment proposal, a poinding is scheduled by the sheriff officer. This action is taken as a last resort and is always notified in writing.

Poinding (pronounced "Pin ding") in Scotland is the arrestment of goods for sale by officers to pay debts and can be ordered by the courts.  This method will shortly come to an end following changes by the Scottish Parliament.