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The nudge factor in collecting outstanding debt

First published in IRRV Insight in August 2014

As a work colleague of mine regularly quotes collection is now about the ‘nudge factor’ – a strange statement? Well no not really. Collection levels seem to be continually rising, the expected major drop in collection levels following the introduction of Council Tax Support seems to either have not materialised or the levels are gradually returning to normal, yet there are still steps I believe that can be taken to ‘nudge up’ collection.

In order to do this Revenues Departments will need to tackle the tasks/items that become lost amongst the daily tasks required to keep the service ticking along. You need to look deep into your core systems and extract the information that is sitting there just wanting to tell you all about itself. There are countless examples of areas that can be looked at, below are just a few:

  • Review the stop codes/diary dates (call them what you want) that are set so far in the future. Can the circumstances that gave rise to the block really exist for that long? A far more sensible approach is to limit the maximum duration, which in turn will force the user to review the case/question why the stop was put on in the first place!
  • Discounts/disregards are so often applied and left to run without any further questions asked. Again a regular review of those miscellaneous disregards (Apprentices, Carers, dare I say Disabled Reduction!) may lead to the removal of the reduction and extra income for the Authority.
  • Keeping a closer eye on the larger new developments that seem to be popping out from any unused land can again pay dividends. It is all too easy for an occupier/builder to say that they have ‘just moved in’ when the Inspector calls or in some cases never calls. So picking up these cases earlier may again result in increased charges and raising charges earlier.
  • Check the Attachments that are in place. Ensure that payments are received regularly from both Employers and the DWP. It is pointless having a case sat at these stages if the person no longer works/claims. Whilst you would expect to be notified of such a change it is not always the case and accounts can go un-noticed way after the circumstances have changed.
  • Badger the Collection Agents to hand over the payments and ask questions on the cases that never seem to move on.
  • Look into the other debt systems maintained by the Authority and establish where joint action could be taken to recover the combined sums due. It seems standard practice to pursue individual debts, but why should this be the case?
  • And finally look out for those cases that may soon be un-recoverable due to the provisions of the Limitation Act – you may think this doesn’t happen but I can assure you it does.

So to put this into context lets put some figures around this – if an Authority with a collectable debt of £50,000,000 for 50,000 hereditaments collects just £1 extra per account this would see an increase of £50,000/annum or 0.1% increase in the collection level. Not a huge task when you look at it this way. I believe that unlocking the data in your systems will certainly enable you to see things in a different light and go some way to achieve the ‘nudge factor’ I referred to earlier.

To see how Destin Solutions can help you achieve this please visit our stand at the IRRV National Conference or contact Duncan Baxter at duncan.baxter@destin.co.uk

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