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£2.2 million council tax remains unpaid in East Staffordshire

By Burton Mail  |  Posted: May 31, 2014

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MORE than £2 million worth of council tax remains unpaid in East Staffordshire, according to shock figures revealed to the Mail.

A total of £2,228,357.39 was brought forward as arrears by East Staffordshire Borough Council at the start of this financial year, according to a Freedom of Information request submitted to the authority.

But despite the seemingly large amount, a spokesman for the council described the arrears as ‘relatively small’, and denied it would impact on the authority at a time of unprecedented financial pressure.

He added: “There is no link between the relatively small amount of council tax arrears and Government cuts to our budget.

“East Staffordshire Borough Council has either frozen or reduced council tax over the last five years and the new administration intends to do so again next year.”

The council has a high rate of collection for council tax; at 98 per cent it is higher than the national average.

Recent court cases have seen the authority taking people to task for non-payment of the bill, in a bid to retrieve thousands of pounds which remained outstanding in the 2013/14 financial year.

Work is underway to recover the £2 million which remains unpaid, the council said.

Robert Oxley, campaign director of the TaxPayers’ Alliance said: “With budgets tight, local authorities can’t afford to leave millions of pounds in tax uncollected.

“The borough council needs to be clear about why there is such difference between what’s owed and what’s expected.

“Tough action should be taken on those who refuse, while others who are simply struggling with rising bills should be helped with easier ways to pay.”

The Freedom of Information figures also showed that £200,890 in council tax has been written off in the past year, following issues including bankruptcy, liquidation, and an inability to trace the debtor.

A borough council spokesman said the amount equated to less than 0.4 per cent of the amount billed to council tax payers over the last year.

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