SUMMONSES for non-payment of council tax have increased by almost a quarter in East Staffordshire, while the cost of council tax remains the highest in the borough for the Uttoxeter ward.
A total of 4,040 people have been told to answer their case for non-payment of council tax before the courts since the council tax reduction scheme was introduced in April – 783 more than the same period last year.
This comes after it was revealed in the Advertiser in August that council tax was still the highest in Uttoxeter of the whole of East Staffordshire, at a rate of £74.65 more than the borough’s council tax average for a Band D property.
The extra charge for the Uttoxeter Town ward has continued this year from last year, as a fault in the calculation of the town council precept has meant that Uttoxeter residents have had a higher rate to pay.
East Staffordshire Borough Council has argued that the increase in people avoiding paying their council tax cannot be put down to the changes in the benefits system alone.
A spokesman for the authority said: “There will be council tax payers not entitled to or claiming a reduction who could also be summonsed for non-payment.
“The council has a number of ways in which it helps residents struggling with council tax payments and any resident seeking advice can go to our customer service centre in Uttoxeter or speak to our council tax team on 01283 508030.”
Jon Wheale, the Labour party’s prospective parliamentary candidate for Uttoxeter, said: “I think the increase in summons shows that for some people the cost of living is becoming a real problem.
“This is potentially 800 families that are having a problem.”
When questioned on Uttoxeter’s council tax figures, town mayor Hugh Montgomery commented: “We have had an extra charge for some time - for facilities like Bramshall Park and other recreational areas.”
The figure of summonses for East Staffordshire has been released following a report from the Labour Party showing that more than 450,000 more people had been ordered to attend court since the scheme altered during a major benefits shake up orchestrated by central Government.
Parliament voted to no longer provide the same level of council tax support to local authorities, which meant that councils had to fund their own exemption schemes.
As a result, many decided to cap the amount of support they could offer.
Those claiming discounts are means tested, with the maximum amount of support available 75 per cent of the full bill.
The upshot is that those who previously had to pay no council tax, now have to find money to fund at least 25 per cent of the cost.
The Labour party argued that families were being forced to make a decision between feeding themselves and ‘staying on the right side of the law’.
£3.5 million in council tax was not collected in East Staffordshire in 2011/12.