North Somerset’s unpaid council tax is a ‘concern’
PUBLISHED: 10:00 27 July 2016
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The amount of unpaid council tax in North Somerset is at a ‘concerning’ level with the total nearing a reported £12million.
New figures, released by the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG), show North Somerset is owed £11.7million in council tax up until March of this year.
The official Government figures were published this week but North Somerset Council is disputing their accuracy. It believes the figure to be £9.7million.
However, the release of these numbers has prompted a debt charity to issue a warning to North Somerset residents.
Money Advice Trust, which runs debt advice charity National Debtline, is worried it indicates a number of people are not dealing with debt problems, particularly after an increase in council tax charges.
Joanna Elson, chief executive of the Money Advice Trust charity, said: “The level of unpaid council tax in North Somerset remains a concern.
“With people in the area now paying 3.53 per cent more in council tax than they were this time last year, there is a risk that residents who are already behind will find it even more difficult to resolve their financial difficulty.
“Council tax is vital in funding the essential local services that we all rely on, and local authorities are already under significant financial pressure – so it is in everyone’s interests that arrears are repaid.
“Anyone in and around North Somerset who is finding it hard to make their council tax payments should contact National Debtline or a local agency such as Citizens Advice as early as possible.”
North Somerset Council’s response is to the £9.7million figure, which it says is more accurate than the Government’s figure.
A spokesman said: “The £9.7million is the gross amount of arrears and includes enforcement costs as well that may remain outstanding.
“We do not want to write debt off if we think we can collect it and we work to ensure the income is maximised and debt is collected.
“We have a duty to collect as much council tax as possible as it makes a vital contribution to the services we provide – our collection rate for the last financial year was over 98 per cent.
“We are conscious of how we collect the debt and will offer help to those having difficulty paying and continue to take action against those who won’t pay.”
National Debtline receives around 630 calls a year from North Somerset residents who have issues with debt.
The higher council tax bills have left the charity concerned this number may continue to rise.
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