Hartlepool Council bosses write off more than £45k of tax debt

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IRRECOVERABLE council tax debt worth more than £45,000 has been written out of a council’s books.

Hartlepool Borough Council’s finance and policy committee, which is chaired by council leader Christopher Akers-Belcher, took the decision to write out of the books a total of £45,610.14.

It was for a variety of reasons including the person has either died, absconded or been declared bankrupt.

Officers say a range of “recovery actions” include court action and bailiffs but sometimes the debts are classed as irrecoverable but can be written back into the system if the person reappears.

The council’s rules state any debt due to the council of £1,000 or more can only be written-out with the permission of councillors.

A report by Chris Little, the council’s chief finance officer, said: “After the award of appropriate discounts, exemptions and Local Council Tax Support, the council collects annually about £37.7m of council tax covering more than 42,000 properties.

“The council’s performance in collection of council tax is positive especially given the difficult economic climate, with 97 per cent of council tax being collected within the financial year it is billed.

“National statistics show that Hartlepool at 97 per cent for 2012-13, compares favourably with other councils with the average collection for metropolitan and unitary authorities in 2012-13 being 96.8 per cent.”

Independent councillor Paul Thompson said at least two of the people on the confidential list were “easily chaseable” for the debt.

Mr Little said: “If any payment is subsequently received in respect of any of the individual debts referred to, the relevant debt will also be reinstated onto the council tax system.”

He added: “If the people reappear we will go back after them for the debt.”

Coun Akers-Belcher added: “We can still vehemently chase them.”

Members agreed the recommendations to write-out irrecoverable council tax debts.

For 2013-14, with the introduction of the Local Council Tax Support Scheme the council is required to collect council tax from 6,000 households that previously paid none.

The council is also collecting more council tax from those 2,600 households that previously received partial council tax benefit.