Hartlepool council writes off £31k business rates debt

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COUNCILLORS have agreed to write £31,000 of business rates out of a council’s books because they are “irrecoverable”.

Hartlepool Borough Council has taken the decision because the businesses have either stopped trading, gone into liquidation or have been made bankrupt.

Hartlepool Borough Council chief finance officer Chris Little

Hartlepool Borough Council chief finance officer Chris Little

The decision was taken by the council’s finance and policy committee where committee members were asked to write-out business rates debts to the value of £31,704.17.

Chris Little, the council’s chief finance officer, said: “The council’s performance in collection is positive, in 2012-13, 98 per cent of business rates were collected within the financial year it was billed.

“National statistics show that Hartlepool’s performance at 98 per cent compares favourably with other councils, the average collection for metropolitan and unitary authorities in 2012-13 was 97.1 per cent.

“While every effort is made to collect the business rates due, certain debts will become irrecoverable.”

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

A report said the local authority currently bills and collects about £30.8m of business rates per year.

Finance chiefs say with the new retained business rates system, which means the council keeps what it collects with the rest topped up from central government, it is now even more important that the council has “effective arrangements” for recovery of these sums.

The total number of business rates written off due to companies either going into liquidation, being dissolved or have stopped trading totalled £18,324.98.

Meanwhile, bankruptcy accounted for just under £4,000 and the rest, more than £9,000, was classed as miscellaneous.