Councillors have reluctantly written off almost £500,000 of unpaid business tax debts after a number of Hartlepool companies went into liquidation or were dissolved.
Members of the council’s Finance and Policy Committee called the level of irrecoverable debts “unacceptable” and say they will appeal to the government for greater powers to prevent such huge debts being amassed in the future.
Just over £444,000 of the taxes owed between April 2012 and last December were written off as a result of companies going into liquidation or being dissolved.
The largest, £210,000, related to two companies – Seaton Leisure Ltd and Clockwise Leisure Ltd – which ran The Sports Domes ,at Seaton Carew.
The two next highest amounts were £114,363 owed by Tees Leisure Ltd for the Hillcarter Hotel from April 2012 to last December, and £34,065 by Johnnor Developments Ltd for The Staincliffe Hotel for April 2013 to May 15, 2016.
Councillor Alan Clark said: “They are eye-watering sums of money.”
He said the three highest figures totalling £300,000 were the equivalent to the council’s youth service budget for the whole year.
He added: “It’s totally unacceptable and I think local authorities need more powers from central government to be able to tackle theses sort of issues sooner.”
Coun Paul Thompson said the loss of more than £400,000 to the council was “disgraceful”.
Coun Marjorie James added: “At the end of the day it’s the residents of Hartlepool who lose out, and our role is to defend those residents.”
Brian Morton, owner of the Sports Domes, who has also been involved with the Staincliffe and Hillcarter Hotels, said: “The Sports Domes rates are under appeal.
“The council have already agreed that the invoices which they have issued is in excess and in their belief it should only be less than half what it is.”
A Hartlepool council spokesman said: “The council sees situations such as this as private matters between the rate payer and Valuation Office which independently sets rateable values for a business and would rule on any appeal.”
Chris Little, chief finance officer for the council, said most businesses pay their taxes without a problem.
He said: “We do our very best on a daily basis to recover the money.”
Just over half of the business rates written off, £266,547, will be met by central government.