Coun­cil is owed mil­lions in tax

Accrington Observer - - NEWS -

JON MACPHER­SON

MIL­LIONS of pounds in un­paid coun­cil tax is owed by Hyn­d­burn res­i­dents and busi­nesses, ac­cord­ing to new fig­ures from a na­tional debt char­ity.

More than £5.5 mil­lion is owed in un­paid coun­cil tax up to March 31 this year, ac­cord­ing to the Money Ad­vice Trust (MAT) – the equiv­a­lent to an av­er­age of £152 per home. The fig­ure, which in­cludes busi­ness rates, has also jumped around £900,000 in the last 12 months from £4.6 mil­lion in March 2014.

Coun Gareth Mo­lineux, cab­i­net mem­ber for re­sources, has ad­vised res­i­dents strug­gling to pay the bills to con­tact the coun­cil and other sup­port or­gan­i­sa­tions.

He said: “The ma­jor­ity of our res­i­dents al­ways pay their coun­cil tax on time and in full each year. The £5.549 mil­lion in to­tal un­paid coun­cil tax re­lates to coun­cil tax that is still ac­tively be­ing re­cov­ered for the fi­nan­cial years back to 2009.

“How­ever, as some peo­ple fall into debt at some point in their lives, we aim to make af­ford­able pay­ment plans to help them, whilst max­imis­ing the col­lec­tion of coun­cil tax to safe­guard our ser­vices for all res­i­dents of the bor­ough.

“We are cur­rently re­view­ing our coun­cil tax and non do­mes­tic rates col­lec­tion and re­cov­ery pol­icy to en­sure that we op­er­ate a firm but fair ap­proach, as we are com­mit­ted to max­imis­ing the in­come avail­able for lo­cal ser­vices and res­i­dents.”

Con­ser­va­tive coun­cil- lor Peter Brit­cliffe said the fig­ures are ‘ab­so­lutely shock­ing’ and other author­i­ties that ben­e­fit from coun­cil tax will also be af­fected.

He said: “Most res­i­dents do pay coun­cil tax but in fact most res­i­dents are pay­ing for the ones who don’t. These are ab­so­lutely shock­ing fig­ures and I’m sure that peo­ple will be as ap­palled as I am. If this was col­lected in to­day you could al­most halve coun­cil tax for ev­ery­body for the next year. Other author­i­ties like Lan­cashire County Coun­cil, the po­lice and fire au­thor­ity will also be af­fected as pre­cepts should also go to them.”

A to­tal of 142 calls were made from Hyn­d­burn last year to Na­tional Debtline, and Joanna El­son OBE, chief ex­ec­u­tive of the MAT which runs Na­tional Debtline, said they are ‘con­cerned’ that many oth­ers in the bor­ough are ‘strug­gling alone’.

She said: “We would like to see lo­cal author­i­ties do ev­ery­thing they can to help res­i­dents who are fall­ing be­hind to seek the free ad­vice that can turn their lives around.”

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