Hartlepool council writes-off £415,000 in debts - but figure is still one of the lowest in the region

Council bosses have agreed to write off £415,000 of irrecoverable debts - but said the figure is among the lowest in the North East.

Wednesday, 19th June 2019, 10:45 am
Updated Wednesday, 19th June 2019, 1:03 pm
Hartlepool Civic Centre
Hartlepool Civic Centre

The total was made up of £78,338.43 council tax and £337,419.1 business rates.

But councillors praised the work of council officers for ensuring high collection rates as they agreed to write-out the debts.

Across the 12 North East councils in 2017/18 Hartlepool Borough Council wrote off the lowest amount of council tax and the second lowest amount of business rates.

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Coun Shane Moore

Council officers noted 56% of the business rates figure – to £190,197.60 - will fall to the responsibility of central government.

Councillors on the finance and policy committee praised officers for keeping the figures, which often cover more than one financial year, to a relatively low level.

Coun Shane Moore said: “We do appreciate the work you [the officers] do and we know it’s not an easy task and you do a very good job of it and the figures here quite clearly show that.

He added: “You do everything you possibly can to cover those debts but unfortunately unless there is a change in national legislation your hands are tied.”

Coun Paddy Brown added: “I know it’s never good to see money written off but the figures are absolutely fantastic, so well done to the team that do that.”

Officers said every effort is made to collect debts and the figures are ‘well within the financial planning assumptions’ in the council budget.

John Morton, assistant director of finance and customer services, said annually the council collects around £47million in council tax and £33.4million in business rates.

For 2017/18 Hartlepool collected 95.7% of council tax, placing the authority second in the Tees Valley, and they were also joint third for business rates collection, with 98.9%, and these figures have improved over the past year.

The council tax write off is made up of £15,648.94 of deceased debts, £20,876.30 of absconder debts, £29,723.04 due to bankruptcy, debt relief orders and liquidation, and £12,090.15 for miscellaneous reasons.

The business rates write off was made up of £4,609.66 of sole traders becoming bankrupt, £64,908.50 from sole traders absconding and other miscellaneous reasons, while £267,900.98 was due to limited companies entering liquidation and dissolving.