Hartlepool's unpaid tax bill tops Â£6million
Hartlepool residents owe more than Â£6million in unpaid council tax.
Since the financial year 1993/94, £6.1million remains unpaid by residents in the borough - a rise of more than £1million since 2015.
Council tax arrears from April 2016 to March 2018 currently stand at £3,123,000 but the council expects around half of this will be repaid by the end of the financial year.
Council tax goes towards many services including adult social services, road maintenance, children’s services and refuse collection and disposal.
It comes as the council faces a shortfall of between £5.2million and £6million on its annual £84million budget for the year 2019-2020.
A Hartlepool Borough Council spokesman said: “While figures show that council tax arrears in Hartlepool covering all years going back to 1993/94 total £6.1 million, it is important to note that in the same period the total amount of Council Tax billed was £681.5 million.
“Where council tax goes unpaid in a particular financial year we will always continue to seek payment.
“For example, in the 2017/18 financial year we collected £1.4 million of arrears for previous financial years.
“Whilst our council tax collection rate for the last full financial year, 2017/18, was 95.7% - a small improvement on the previous year - the more important measure is the long-term collection rate and statistics show that after five years we collect 99.4% of council tax.”
He added: “We take a robust and vigorous approach to the recovery of unpaid council tax, whilst acknowledging that some people may genuinely be experiencing hardship.
“Individuals who fail to pay after reminders and final notices are issued with a magistrates’ court summons.
“The court would normally grant a Court Liability Order which gives the council the legal authority to enforce collection of the debt.
“Using the court order, the Council makes enquiries and for those debtors that are in employment we request a deduction from earnings from their employer or in the case of those on welfare benefits we will ask the Department for Work and Pensions to make deductions from their benefit payments.
“Where individuals are experiencing hardship we can try to agree a payment plan appropriate to their circumstances.
“We also actively promote our Local Council Tax Support scheme through which in certain circumstances some people may be able to claim a reduction in their council tax bill. To find out more call (01429) 284188 or email [email protected]”
Last year, National Debtline provided debt advice over the phone to 84 people in Hartlepool.
The charity says that nationally more than a quarter of people who contacted the debtline had council tax arrears in 2017.
Jane Tully, director of external affairs at Money Advice Trust, the charity that runs National Debtline, said: “At National Debtline we are hearing from more people struggling to meet day-to-day costs including for energy and council tax.
“More than one in four of the people we help now have council tax debt, up from just one in seven a decade ago.
“I would encourage anyone struggling to pay their council tax to seek free debt advice as soon as possible. Councils have strong powers to make you pay so it is important to start to deal with the situation as soon as possible.”
Since the start of the year, 30% of the people helped over the phone have had council tax arrears.
People can National Debtline on 08088084000.