£680k tax deficit worry

Coun Simon Blackburn
Coun Simon Blackburn
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The amount of council tax collected by Blackpool Council is £680,000 less than the same time last year according to the latest figures.

The collection rate at the end of January is down 1.5 per cent to 85.3 per cent from 86.8 per cent at the same time last year.

Blackpool Town Hall

Blackpool Town Hall

The figure of £680,000 was revealed after Coun Maxine Callow quizzed council leader Coun Simon Blackburn at the last full meeting of the council.

After being given the figure following the meeting, Coun Callow said: “I know everyone is having to tighten their belts, but I was horrified by this figure which is a huge amount.

“We have to think about what the figure was last year, it is adding up over the years.

“There is a lot of money owing, and there is a big difference between those who can’t pay and those who won’t pay.

“No-one wants to push anyone over the edge if they are struggling financially but there is help available either through the council or through organisations such as the Citizen’s Advice Bureau.

“Anybody who has lost their job or is sick, and is therefore unable to pay, has my sympathy, but this can’t go on.”

Coun Callow said every penny was needed in order to fund essential services such as children’s services and social care.

She added: “The cost of caring for children is going up month after month because we have families coming here with social difficulties.

“So we must do all we can to collect our council tax so we can continue to support these vital services.”

In January this year The Gazette revealed the amount of council tax owed to Blackpool Council had more than doubled in the past five years to more than £10m.

Figures showed at the end of the 2010/11 financial year arrears stood at £4.83m but that figure had jumped to £10.52m by the end of 2014/15 and is expected to be around the same level this year.

In response to Coun Callow, Coun Blackburn said “This has been an escalating problem ever since the Conservative Government abolished council tax benefit, and simultaneously our own budget has been slashed every year – this year with the harshest cuts in the country.

“The Government is essentially forcing us to chase the very poorest in our society for council tax.

“We warned the Government repeatedly that some will simply not be able to pay and indeed this problem now exists to varying extents across the country.

“I have consistently warned that this combination of austerity measures would undermine our ability to collect taxes in as timely a manner as we would wish.”

Town hall finance chiefs say they expect to recover 98 per cent of what is owed to them over a five year period.

However, as some debt is collected, fresh debts accumulate as other householders miss payments and have to be chased up.

The worst offenders are threatened with prosecution but other action taken when people fail to settle their 
bills is to seek payment arrangements to catch up the arrears, an attachment
of earnings or an attachment of benefits which is a
direct deduction under a court order, or as a last 
resort, enforcement action is taken by agents used by the council.