Hartlepool Council set to write off ‘irrecoverable’ debt of £263,000

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COUNCILLORS are being asked to write off “irrecoverable” business rate, council tax and sundry debts worth a total of £263,000.

Hartlepool Borough Council’s finance and policy committee will meet tomorrow to discuss the plans to write off business rates totalling £230,000, council tax debt of £7,000 and sundry debts worth £15,700.

Hartlepool Civic Centre.

Hartlepool Civic Centre.

Finance bosses say “every effort” is made to collect money owed to the council but sometimes they become irrecoverable if the company is dissolved or goes bankrupt.

The council currently bills and collects about £30.6m of business rates every year.

A report by John Morton, the council’s assistant chief finance officer, said: “Of the proposed write outs of £233,894.07, the majority will be charged against the central government National Non Domestic Rates Pool bad debt provision and thereby will have no financial impact on the council.”

Meanwhile, the councillors are also being asked to write out irrecoverable council tax debt for those people that have either absconded or sadly died.

Hartlepool Council annually collects around £37.8m of council tax covering more than 42,000 properties.

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

Mr Morton said: “After five years, in Hartlepool in excess of 99.2 per cent of council tax will have been collected and the council continues to vigorously pursue recovery

of the remaining amounts.

“However, the council recognises that those facing hardship may require additional time to pay their Council Tax. During the recovery process efforts are made to distinguish between those that “can’t pay” from those that “can pay but won’t pay”.”

Finance chiefs say there are a number of methods to recovery debt including court action, bailiffs, bankruptcy proceedings and charging orders.

Mr Morton said all debts submitted for write-out from the accounting records have been “comprehensively scrutinised” by officers before going to the committee for approval.

With regard the sundry debt, £10,227.32, relates to unpaid social care contributions charges following the passing away of the individual and where there are no assets.

The other two debts, totalling £5,514.17, relate to companies in liquidation and for which the council has “little prospect” of receiving any payment, as the authority anks below other company creditors.

The finance and policy committee is due to meet on Friday, March 28, at the Civic Centre, in Victoria Road at 9.30am.