What happens if I don't pay on time?


The Council is committed to ensuring that Council Tax bills are kept as low as possible. Prompt collection means that the Council has to spend less on sending reminders and final notices and if the cash is collected promptly the Council benefits from improved cash flow. If you have any problems paying then please contact us.

Your Council Tax bill shows you how much you need to pay and when your payments are due. Unless you pay by Direct Debit (where there is a choice of 4 payment dates) monthly instalments will be payable on the first of the month. If you pay by post, through the post office, or through the bank you should allow extra time for your payment to reach us.

Back to Top

Reminder and Final Notices

If you do not pay instalments when they fall due you will receive a Reminder notice telling you to bring your account up to date.

If you do not make a payment the next notice you receive will be a Summons. This is because by paying nothing the right to pay by monthly instalments is lost and the whole year becomes payable in advance.

If you pay the instalment shown on the Reminder but then fail to pay the next one you will receive another Reminder notice. If you then fail to pay the next one you will receive a Final Notice cancelling the instalment facility.

If you are having genuine difficulty in making payments you should contact us straight away and we will do our best to help you.

Do not ignore the Reminder notice because if we have to continue with recovery action against you, you may have to pay extra costs.

Please note that if you pay nothing or pay late resulting in a Final Notice your right to pay by instalments is lost and the full outstanding balance becomes payable in advance. If you do not pay the amount outstanding or make an acceptable payment arrangement with us, usually by direct debit, to clear the balance of your account we will continue with recovery action.

Back to Top

Court Summons and Enforcement

Information about Council Tax recovery action:

Why have I received a Summons?

If you missed or were late paying a Council Tax instalment you will have been sent a reminder notice giving you seven days to bring your Council Tax payments up to date. If you did not pay within this time, or if after a second reminder / final notice you have fallen behind with your payments again, you will now have to pay the full outstanding balance of your Council Tax bill. The Council is asking the court to issue a liability order so that it can recover the outstanding Council Tax from you.

What should I do now?

You should pay the amount of Council Tax that you owe in full, including costs as shown on the summons. If you do this before the date of the court hearing your case will not be heard and the council will not apply for a liability order. 

If you are unable to make payment in full and wish to make a special payment arrangement, please contact us at counciltax@milton-keynes.gov.uk or telephone 01908 253794.

We will still apply for a liability order, but if you keep to the arrangement you have made, no further action will be taken.

What is a liability order?

A liability order is a demand for you to pay the full amount you owe, plus costs. It gives the council greater powers to collect the money you owe using a range of actions which include:

  • asking your employer to take regular deductions from your salary 
  • taking money directly from your Income Support, Jobseeker’s Allowance or Employment and Support Allowance 
  • asking Enforcement Agents to visit your home and either collect the amount you owe, or if this is not possible, remove items belonging to you and sell them 
  • putting a charging order on your property, which means we could force its sale to pay your Council Tax arrears, or the arrears will be paid out of the amount you get for any future sale 
  • applying to make you bankrupt 
  • applying to the Magistrates Court for your committal to prison.

Back to Top

Do I need to go to the court hearing?

You do not need to attend the court hearing unless you have a legal defence against the issue of a liability order. The magistrates will hear the case whether you attend or not.

The magistrates can only listen to a valid defence against the issue of a liability order. Some common defences are: 

  • the property is not entered in the appropriate valuation list 
  • the Council Tax has not been properly set 
  • the Council Tax has not been billed in accordance with the legislation 
  • the amount demanded has been paid in full (including summons costs) 
  • more than six years have passed since the balance became due
  • bankruptcy proceedings have been started
  • you are not the person who is liable to pay the Council Tax that you have been summonsed for.

It is not a valid defence against the issue of a liability order, and you do not need to attend court if: 

  • you can’t afford to pay the amount owed in full 
  • you would like time to pay or have difficulty paying 
  • you want to make a payment arrangement
  • you have applied for Council Tax Support and have not heard anything
  • your Council Tax Support is incorrect
  • you are appealing against a decision for Council Tax Support entitlement
  • you have appealed to the council or the Valuation Office Agency about the amount of your Council Tax or your property band.

If you have a valid defence and wish to attend the court hearing you MUST contact the Recovery Department first to arrange an appointment to appear.

Email recovery@milton-keynes.gov.uk or telephone the Council on 01908 254060.

Under the current COVID-19 restrictions you may not be allowed to enter the court building unless you have pre-booked a time slot with the Council first.  This is a safety precaution for you and other court users.

Back to Top

Collection and Enforcement  

Liability Order Granted

After a Liability Order has been granted, a notice may be issued requiring you to supply financial information. You must complete and return it within 14 days. You can download a copy of the Request for Information Notice Form (DOCX, 21KB) and fill this in should you misplace the one we send you.

If you do not complete and return the form, the law states it is an offence punishable by a fine.

The Council will not make an arrangement for payment without this information. The Council is not obliged to make arrangements to pay. However, if one is made, the maximum period will be assessed based on each person’s individual circumstances. Any arrangements would normally be to the end of statutory instalment period (1 January). Any arrears must be paid in addition to the current year’s council tax charge. Council tax is a daily charge and an arrangement will not be agreed which allows the total debt to increase.

If you are unable to make payment in full and wish to make a special payment arrangement, please contact us at counciltax@milton-keynes.gov.uk or telephone 01908 253794.

If a Liability Order is granted by the Magistrates the Council has the right to decide the next stage of enforcement. If an acceptable arrangement has been made, the Council will not take any further action. But if no contact is made or an arrangement has failed, the law allows for different types of action as follows:

  1. Attachment of Earnings
  2. Attachment of Benefit
  3. Enforcement Action
  4. Committal to prison
  5. Bankruptcy
  6. Charging Order

1. Attachment of Earnings

The Council can issue an Attachment of Earnings Order without having to go back to Court. The Liability Order allows the Council to do this. The amount of the deductions are not set by the Council but by the Government that provides a table of percentage deductions from your net income. Council Tax Deduction Table (PDF, 32KB)

2. Attachment of Benefit

The Council can apply for deductions to be made from someone’s income support, jobseekers allowance, pension credit and universal credit.

Back to Top

3. Enforcement Action

Enforcement Agents are employed to distrain upon and remove goods for sale where appropriate. If the Council instructs the Enforcement Agent, it will cost you significant extra charges, contacting them early is important to minimise these charges.


  • Compliance Stage - £75.00
    Fee is incurred by the debtor when the Council instructs the Enforcement Agents to collect your outstanding debt.
  • Enforcement Stage - £235.00
    Fee is incurred by the debtor upon the first visit by the Enforcement Agent.
  • Sale/Disposal Stage - £110.00
    Fee is incurred by the debtor upon a further visit with the intention to remove goods for sale.

Please note an additional fee of 7.5% will be charged on any balance over £1,500.

Marston contact details:

Online payments

To pay online, please go to https://payments.marstonholdings.co.uk

Automated payment line

To pay through our 24-hour automated payment line, phone 0333 320 1100.

Contact us by phone

To speak to one of our team to make a payment, or to discuss your circumstances, phone 0333 320 1822. Our opening hours are 8am to 8pm Monday to Friday, 8am to 4pm on Saturdays.

Contact us by email
If you haven't found the answer you are looking for on the Marston Holdings website, please email us at generalenquiries@marstonholdings.co.uk.

Contact us by post
It is always quicker and easier to contact us by phone or email.  If you do need to send us anything in the post, please send it to:

PO Box 12019
CM16 9EB

To pay by post, send a postal order, cheque or banker’s draft, made payable to ‘Marston’ to the address above. Make sure that you write your name and our reference number on anything you send us and if sending us a payment, on the back of the postal order, cheque or banker’s draft so we know what the payment is for.

Back to Top

4. Committal to prison 

The Council wishes to avoid committal wherever possible, but has a strict policy of taking such proceedings where no other form of recovery is appropriate. In the first instance the Council will apply for a summons for you to attend Court. This action will lead to substantial costs being added to your debt.

You must attend this hearing. If you do not attend, a warrant will be issued for your arrest.

At the hearing, the Council will apply for you to be committed to prison for non-payment.

You will undergo an enquiry as to your means. If the Magistrates find you guilty of either Culpable Neglect (you did not pay and it is deemed to be your fault) or Wilful Refusal (you intentionally chose not to pay) they can choose to commit you to prison or to suspend committal on an order for payments. The maximum sentence for each Liability Order is 3 months imprisonment. It is strongly recommended that you take legal advice in advance of the hearing.

Back to Top

5. Bankruptcy

If a Liability Order has been granted and the total indebtedness to the Council is over £1,500 the Council can petition for your bankruptcy.

Should you be made bankrupt your personal finances will be handed over to a Trustee who will administer your estate.

Your assets can include any interest in any home you own, personal pension, endowments and savings plans.

It will inhibit your ability to obtain credit. The costs of obtaining a Bankruptcy Order and the subsequent actions of a Trustee can amount to several thousands of pounds.

These costs would be deducted from the proceeds of your liquidated assets.

A Bankruptcy Order can still be made even if you refuse to acknowledge the proceedings. You should therefore ensure that you do acknowledge any such proceedings and contact the Council immediately.

Back to Top

6. Charging Order

If a Liability Order has been granted and the total indebtedness to the Council has over £1,000 outstanding under Liability Order(s) and the Council Tax payer has a legal interest in the property, we may apply to the County Court for a charging order on the property.

The effect of a charging order is that if the property or other legal interest is sold, the amount of the charging order is paid out of the proceeds.

Debt Advice

If you are having difficulty paying your Council Tax at any time, please contact us for advice as soon as possible at counciltax@milton-keynes.gov.uk or by telephoning 01908 253794.

Please also complete the following income and expenditure form (PDF, 79KB) and include this with any offer of payment.

The following links can also provide free help and advice;

You can also seek independent financial advice by contacting:

Milton Keynes Citizens Advice Bureau                                                   

MK Money Lifeline

Milton Keynes Age UK

National Debtline

Back to Top


Last Updated: 12 May 2022