£8m owed in council tax

Job losses have been announced at Blackpool Council
Job losses have been announced at Blackpool Council
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BLACKPOOL Council is owed more than £8m in Council Tax dating back to 1993.

Under a Freedom of Information Act request, The Gazette has learned the authority has £8,382,698.23 of outstanding payments from residents in the town.

Council records show more than £1.9m outstanding from the last tax year alone.

Slow

However, the authority’s collection rate rises to 98 per cent over time – the average for all authorities in England.

A council spokesman said: “In Blackpool we are dealing with one of the most deprived local authorities, so that can slow down the collection process.

“There is also a large transient population with seasonal employment, which means it can take a bit more time to collect it, but collect it we do.”

The outstanding money could not be used to save jobs or services – as the council sets is budget at the expected collection rate of 98 per cent – which means the money yet to be collected is already accounted for in Blackpool Council’s budget process, a practice carried out by authorities across the country.

The council levy on households, introduced in 1993, is considered one of the most efficient taxes but £530m is unpaid across the country.

The spokesman said there was a number of reasons for non-collection, from personal insolvency through to people moving away without settling a bill.

He added: “We have challenging targets but we meet them. We might collect 95 to 96 per cent in the year itself, and reach the 98 per cent figure a number of years later.”

But Joanna Kennedy, chief executive of Z2K, a charity which helps council tax debtors, told The Gazette: “Councils’ computerised systems and collection methods are very cumbersome and produce a lot of inaccuracies.”

One measure councils use to retrieve unpaid tax is a liability order issued by the magistrates’ court. Blackpool Council has obtained 8,585 of these orders since January 1, 2010.

Blackpool Council say the orders can push large numbers through the courts in a short time.

But Ms Kennedy wasn’t so sure. She added: “A lot owe them money because they are entitled to council tax benefit. It would be better and cost less if they targeted the ‘won’t pays’ rather than the ‘can’t pays’.