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£2.2 million council tax left unpaid in East Staffordshire

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

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 under way to recover the £2 million which remains unpaid, the council said.

Robert Oxley, campaign director of the TaxPayers’ Alliance said tough action needs to be taken against the latest unpaid council tax figure.

He 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.

This followed various issues including bankruptcy, liquidation, and an inability to trace the debtor.

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

The authority has been taking legal action against hundreds of people in a bid to recoup some of the unpaid tax and last time took 300 people to court who had clocked up a more than £130,000 debt.

The council was hoping to retrieve council tax totalling £65,666 as well as non-domestic – or business – rates from 20 people who failed to pay, adding up to £71,625.02.

Once the orders are granted, it will allow the authority to pursue the cash owed to it by other means such as deductions from earnings or benefits.

East Staffordshire residents pay some of the lowest council tax rates in the country.

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