South Tyneside’s unpaid tax tops £11.3m

�11m is owned in council tax
�11m is owned in council tax

Residents living in South Tyneside owe more than £11.3million in unpaid council tax.

Although the council currently collects 99% of overall debt, households in the borough are missing payments.

South Shields Town Hall

South Shields Town Hall

Those living in the local authority now owe a total of £11,381,250 in council tax arrears - an increase of more than £2m from 2015.

Council tax rose by almost 5% this year as part of efforts to make savings of more than £70m over the next three years.

Last year, more than 180 people in South Tyneside called National Debtline seeking advice.

National figures show that 26% of people who called the charity in 2017 were in council tax arrears.

Coun Ed Malcolm

Coun Ed Malcolm

Jane Tully, director of external affairs at Money Advice Trust, the charity that runs National Debtline, said: “At National Debtline we are hearing from more people struggling to meet day-to-day costs including for energy and council tax.

“More than one in four of the people we help now have council tax debt, up from just one in seven a decade ago.

“I would encourage anyone struggling to pay their council tax to seek free debt advice as soon as possible.

“Councils have strong powers to make you pay so it is important to start to deal with the situation as soon as possible.”

Since the start of the year, 30% of the people helped by the charity over the phone have had council tax arrears.

Council tax which was not paid between April 2016 and March 2018 currently stands at £4,123,864.

In June, South Tyneside Council’s cabinet rubber stamped the contract with judicial services firm, Marston Holdings Ltd, who will work as a last resort to deal with those who fail to pay bills on time.

At the time, Coun Ed Malcolm said enforcement agents were an “important tool” in tackling the issue.

He added that they would serve as a “last resort” or when “other methods have been unsuccessful”.

South Tyneside Council said 99% of council tax and business rates debt is currently collected, amounting to £90million a year.

A council spokesman 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 almost 99% of overall debt.

“We remain committed to improving these rates and promote the various payment methods to encourage taxpayers 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.”

Anyone seeking advice can contact the National Debtline on 0808 808 4000.