‘Struggling’ households owe £9million in council tax

South Shields Town Hall.
South Shields Town Hall.

Residents in South Tyneside owe more than £9million in unpaid council tax, shocking new figures reveal.

Those living in the borough’s local authority area owed a total of £9,132,000 in unpaid bills as of March 31 this year – equivalent to an average of £130 per dwelling.

The figure, highlighted by National Debtline, is up by more than £1million on 2013/14, when the unpaid tax figure stood at £8,016,000.

A total of 164 calls for help with debt were made from the South Tyneside area to National Debtline last year.

The charity says that council tax is now the fastest growing type of problem debt it is helping clients to resolve – with 24% of all callers now in arrears, up from 14% in 2007.

Joanna Elson, chief executive of the Money Advice Trust, said: “We are seeing more and more people seek help with council tax arrears – but the fact that South Tyneside residents owe more than £9million makes us concerned that many more people in the area are struggling alone.

“We would like to see local authorities do everything they can to help residents who are falling behind to seek the free advice that can turn their lives around.”

A spokesman for South Tyneside Council said: “We do everything 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 about 98% 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.”

Advice is available at www.nationaldebtline.org and on 0808 808 4000.