Shock over £15m unpaid council tax

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Nearly £15 million is owed in council tax in Calderdale.

The figures obtained by the Brighouse Echo under the Freedom of Information Act relates to the last four years where an average £3.5 million is unpaid every year.

The amount unpaid has sparked concerns from local councillors who say that council tax is vital to paying for services especially in the harsh economic times.

Councillor David Kirton (Con, Hipp/Light) said: “We all know that council tax pays for essential services such as schools, keeping our streets clean and things like that and where people can’t pay or choose not to pay this has an effect on providing these services in the Brighouse area. The concerns that I have are if people are struggling to pay their council tax or find themselves in difficult circumstances then contact the council who will look at ways they can help. We do have things in place to help them.

“Clearly where they choose not to pay it, any amount not paid can have a knock on effect. Any outstanding debt is always recovered, we never ignore it. We always pursue it even if they move away from Calderdale it is never struck off and if they come back we will pursue the debt.

“It is only written off as a last resort. We need to make that very clear we always pursue it until the ends of earth otherwise it is the remainder of Calderdale’s council tax payers that end up picking it up.”

He added that Calderdale works closely with other local authorities and shares information regarding outstanding council tax.

Councillor Scott Benton (Con, Brighouse) - pictured right - said local services rely on this money. “It is simply unacceptable for some members of the community to choose not to pay their fair share.

The Council has a duty to use every mechanism at its disposal to ensure that it receives every penny that it is owed. Unfortunately, I fear that with our Labour-run Council increasing Council Tax year upon year, this situation is only going to get worse.”

And Councillor Graham Hall (Con, Hipp/Light) agreed saying that all debts owed to the council should be pursued. “If not it means that those who do pay have more to pay each year.”

A spokesperson for Calderdale Council said: “Calderdale Council takes the issue of non-payment of Council Tax very seriously. We continue to carry out extensive work to collect unpaid Council Tax. As at July 31 2013, our Council Tax collection rate was 37.42 per cent. Since Council Tax was introduced in 1993 we have budgeted to collect around £1.1 billion, meaning the amount outstanding is just over one per cent of the total.

“We do not write off any amount of unpaid Council Tax until all recovery options have been explored. We take enforcement action as appropriate, including court referrals, and in extreme circumstances, when all other options have been exhausted, we instruct bailiffs.

“We urge anyone who owes outstanding Council Tax to contact us urgently on 01422 393984. If people have difficulty paying what they owe, we provide advice and assistance. Wherever possible, we encourage them to keep up to date with ongoing payments and allow time to pay off the arrears.”

Calderdale - 2009 £3,818,400 is still unpaid, for 2010 £3,703,391, for 2011 £3,576,598 and for 2012 £3,682,105.

Kirklees - 2009 £2.35million; 2010 £2.59million; 2011 £3.05million and 2012 £4.67million.

Leeds - 2009 £3.1million; 2010 £3.4million and for 2011 it was £4million.

Wakefield - 2009 £18.616million; 2010 £18.508million; 2011 £17.119million; 2012 £16.954million.

Bradford - was unable to provide any figures.