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Whether the Lord Chancellor has plans to ensure that magistrates' courts are used only as a last resort for the collection of council tax.[HL2978]
Lord Whitty: The regulations which govern the billing and collection of council tax in England are set out in the Council Tax (Administration and Enforcement) Regulations 1992. Although local authorities have powers to contract out the billing and collection of council tax, contactors are still bound by these regulations.
The regulations provide that before a local authority can take enforcement action to recover council tax arrears it must first apply to the magistrates' courts for a liability order to formally establish that there is a debt. Once a liability order has been obtained, the administration and enforcement regulations give local authorities a range of powers to recover the debt which include attachment of earnings, deductions from income support and the levy of distress.
Economic activity as measured by Gross Domestic Product is covered by guidelines in the UN System of National Accounts 1993 and the European System of Accounts 1995. These international agreements aim to improve comparability. Where suitable data sources enable a more complete picture of economic activity to be presented, these data are reflected in the UK National Accounts. For many areas (such as illegal activity) ONS and others have undertaken research to provide illustrative estimates. However, these estimates are not sufficiently developed to be incorporated into the National Accounts.
In addition, the guidelines allow the use of satellite accounts to provide supplementary information about the economy. For example, household accounts, which are being developed in the UK, aim to place a value on unpaid household production. Progress on the household account will be presented in the Economic Trends publication later this year. Other satellite accounts, such as environmental accounts, which describe the relationship between the economy and the environment, are also under development. These satellite accounts could, in theory, be used to produce a measure of GDP which has been adjusted for the effect of the economy upon areas such as the environment. However, in practice there is no agreed methodology of valuing many of the elements in satellite accounts, so the ONS does not have any plans to produce such a measure.
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