MORE than half a million pounds of public money has gone unpaid as a council goes to court to claw back council tax and business rates.
The Taxpayers’ Alliance has called for authority’s to take ‘tough action’ as more than 400 people in East Staffordshire have not paid council tax and business rates amounting to total a loss of more than £600,000 in the last financial year.
The borough council has asked Stafford Magistrates’ Court to grant Liability Orders against 435 council tax payers and 44 non domestic rates payers for non-payment of council tax and non domestic rates (business rates).
The amount of unpaid council tax totals £186,987.32 and unpaid non domestic rates is £456,916.16.
Most of the debt relates to the current financial year (April 1, 2013 to March 31, 2014), but some debt also relates to previous years.
The council can now use other methods of recovery action against debtors such as attachments to earnings or benefits.
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.
“Keeping council tax low is the easiest way to ensure people don’t struggle to pay while the council should always differentiate between those who can’t pay and those who won’t pay.
“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.”
Uttoxeter MP Andrew Griffiths added: “I think it is important that the council does all it can to recoup unpaid council tax because otherwise these costs end up getting added to people who do pay.
“The council works very hard with people in arrears to give them the help and support their need but it is right that the borough council has a good track record of collecting tax.”
A spokesman for the council said help is available for those who are struggling to pay.
He said: “The council must follow the procedures set down in law when recovering unpaid tax and rates.
“The council must issue reminder notices and summonses before applying for Liability Orders.
“If any council tax payer or non domestic rates payer is experiencing difficulties in paying their council tax or non domestic rates at any time after their initial bill is sent, we urge them to contact us as soon as possible by telephoning our revenues team on 01283 508030 or visiting our customer service centres in the Market Place, Burton, or the library in Uttoxeter.”
A study in 2012 by the GMB Trade Union found the borough council was attempting to claw back £894,000 in unpaid rates.