Unpaid council tax ‘hits us all,’ says member

Unpaid council tax and business rates "affect us all," says Coun Paul Przyszlak.
Unpaid council tax and business rates "affect us all," says Coun Paul Przyszlak.
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People and businesses who don’t pay their council bills have so far cost South Holland more than £140,000 this year, new figures show.

Unpaid council tax, business rates and other money owed to the district council, but unlikely to be paid, is to be written off as non-recoverable after a cabinet meeting last Tuesday.

But the true cost could be much higher as the total amount written off so far in 2013-14 of just over £140,000 only includes debts of £1,050 or more.

A report put before cabinet members showed that just over £19,000 was owed this year in council tax, almost £66,000 in business rates and more than £18,200 in rent arrears, with other debts making up the rest.

In his report, the council’s recovery and support supervisor Mark Woolerton said: “The need to write debt off usually arises due to the debtor being untraceable, insolvent, ceasing trading with no assets or having died with insufficient funds in the estate.

“Where possible, all methods of recovery are considered and pursued before making the decision to write off and this can include internal recovery action, use of debt collection agents, external tracing agents and procedures through the courts.

“All debts approved for write off can be resurrected in full or in part at any time should new information come to light suggesting that they may be recoverable after all.

“But in every case, we believe that all collection options have been exhausted and there are now no realistic prospects of recovery.”

In 2012-13, the council wrote off more than £272,000 of bad debts which included more than £45,000 in council tax, almost £99,000 in business rates and a £12,500 overpayment of housing benefit.

Deputy council leader Paul Przyszlak said: “The council is responsible for collecting over £36.6million in council tax and over £24.8million in business rates this year, with the vast majority of taxpayers and ratepayers doing so on time.

“The debts approved at the cabinet meeting on November 5 represent just 0.05 per cent of the annual council tax collectable and 0.27 per cent of the annual business rates payable.

“But the actions of those who fail to pay their council taxes and business rates affect us all.”