Hartlepool council writes off £18,000 of debts

Hartlepool Civic Centre.

Hartlepool Civic Centre.

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COUNCIL finance chiefs have written of more than £18,000 of irrecoverable debts from council accounts.

Uncollected council tax and business rates totalling £18,732 have been ‘written out’ by Hartlepool Borough Council.

Efforts are made to distinguish between those who can’t pay and who won’t pay

Chris Little – council chief finance officer

They relate to council tax owed by two individuals, one of whom has died, and businesses that have become insolvent.

Council officers say they make every effort to collect cash owed to them but once a firm goes bankrupt or into administration, the money can be difficult to claw back.

Chris Little, the council’s chief finance officer, said in a report: “Most of the business rates recommended for write out relate to a company insolvency where the council is limited to submitting a claim in insolvency proceedings, as the council ranks below other creditors notably HM Revenue and Customs, therefore the debt is being prudently written out of the accounting system.”
He added the council collects around £33 million a year in business rates.

In 2013-14 98.5 per cent was collected in the same year it was billed.

Councillors on the finance and policy committee agreed to write out £16,304 of irrecoverable business rates from April 2013 out of the accounts.

Half of that amount will be footed by central government under the Business Rates Retention system.

Council tax debts of £2,427 were also written out of the council books.

They relate to £1,378 dating back to April 2006 to March 2009 owed by someone who has since died, and £1,048.51 owed by someone declared bankrupt in 2013-14.

The council has the second highest collection rate for the Tees Valley area.

About £38.6 million is paid by over 42,000 properties in town.

Mr Little added: “After five years, in Hartlepool in excess of 99.2 per cent of council tax will have bene collected and the council continues to vigorously pursue recovery of the remaining amounts.

“However, the council recognises that those facing hardship or who may be in a temporary difficult financial position may require additional time to pay their council tax. During the recovery process efforts are made to distinguish between those who can’t pay and to provide appropriate advice and support, from those that can pay but won’t pay.”