Council Tax debt doubles to £2million in South Tyneside

Coun Lee Hughes
Coun Lee Hughes
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South Tyneside Council has seen the amount of Council Tax it is owed almost double over the last three years.

Figures obtained in response to a Freedom of Information request by the Gazette show the authority was owed £1.19million at the end of the 2013/14 financial year.

John O'Connell of the Taxpayers' Alliance.

John O'Connell of the Taxpayers' Alliance.

By the end of 2015/16, that figure had jumped to £2.04million - a rise of more than 70 per cent.

The council has issued more than 30,000 Liability Orders over the past three years in an attempt to claw the cash back.

Independent councillor Lee Hughes said it was vital the authority collect as much Council Tax as possible, especially in light of Whitehall expecting councils to bear more of the rising cost of social care.

“You can’t blame councils for that, it has come from central Government,” he said.

When councils should be tightening their belts, they really need to make sure they are collecting money they are owed.

John O’Connell, Taxpayers’ Alliance

John O’Connell, chief executive of pressure group the Taxpayers’ Alliance, said it was important to ensure anyone who could afford to pay did so.

He said: “When councils should be tightening their belts, they really need to make sure they are collecting money they are owed.

“Of course, there will be those who struggle to make ends meet but councils have to differentiate between taxpayers who can’t afford to pay their bills and those who refuse.

“Council chiefs could make it easier for those struggling by keeping taxes low but also learn the lesson from any mistakes in collection because it’s not fair on ordinary, law-abiding taxpayers for others to get away without paying their share.”

South Shields Town Hall

South Shields Town Hall

A spokesman for South Tyneside Council said: “We do all we can to maximise council tax collection rates, though recovery can take time and in some cases we are not able to recover the council tax debt in the financial year in which it is due.

“We currently collect around 98 per cent of overall debt.

“We remain committed to improving these rates and promote the various payment methods to encourage tax payers to pay their accounts on time. We also use a range of recovery measures to pursue non-payers. Court action and the use of debt collection agencies is always a last resort.

“We are, of course, concerned when residents and businesses find it difficult to pay and would urge anyone in this situation to contact us as soon as possible so that we can explore flexible repayment arrangements that take their circumstances into consideration.”