Council writes off £50,000 in rates as Hartlepool businesses close down

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COUNCILLORS are to be asked to write off more than £50,000 in council tax and business rate debts.

Hartlepool Borough Council says that despite its best efforts, it has been unable to collect a total of £55,420.

The majority of the cash – £51,936 – is made up of irrecoverable business rates after six town companies were dissolved or liquidated.

And most of that, totalling just under £40,000, will be borne by central government.

Finance chiefs within the council are recommending the authority writes out £3,467 in uncollected housing council tax.

Any debts to the council over £1,000 can only be written out with councillors’ permission.

The debts are one of a number of items due to be decided by the Finance and Police Committee at its next meeting on Monday.

Papers for the meeting state Hartlepool is in the lowest bracket nationally for the level of uncollected council tax.

A report by Chris Little, the council’s chief finance officer, said: “Most of the business rates recommended for write out relate to company insolvencies where the council is limited to submitting a claim in insolvency proceedings.

“The council is unlikely to receive any settlement in these proceedings, as the council rates below other creditors notably HM Revenue and Customs, therefore the debt is being prudently written out of the accounting system.”

The report says that bankruptcy accounts for £2,718 of the business rates debts which date from 2008-13.

But, £39,122 of the uncollected business rates, will be charged against the Government’s National Non Domestic Rates Pool bad debt provision and will have no financial impact on the council.

The authority currently collects about £33 million of business rates a year, and in 2013-14 98.5 per cent of business rates were collected in the same year they were billed.

That was higher than the national average for Metropolitan and Unitary Councils and in five years over 99.5 per cent will be collected.

Last year the council collected 96.1 per cent of council tax due, making it the second highest in Tees Valley.

Mr Little’s report added: “All debts submitted for write-out from the accounting records have been comprehensively scrutinised by officers.”