£1.4m added to coun­cil tax debt

The Peterborough Evening Telegraph - - Your - By ASHA ME­HTA

COUN­CIL tax ar­rears in Peter­bor­ough grew by £1.3 mil­lion in the last 12 months – tak­ing the to­tal un­paid and out­stand­ing to £6.2 mil­lion.

The £1.3m un­col­lected by the end of March this year was shown in Peter­bor­ough City Coun­cil’s state­ment of ac­counts for 2009/10 and is added to £4.9m worth of ar­rears car­ried over from the pre­vi­ous fi­nan­cial year.

Cllr Stephen Gold­spink said it was a “huge in­crease” de­spite the re­ces­sion and tabled ques­tions at last night’s city coun­cil Au­dit Com­mit­tee meet­ing, where the ac­counts were be­ing dis­cussed.

Cllr Gold­spink said he wanted to know what led to the rise and what was be­ing done about it.

He is also concerned that the coun­cil’s rev­enues and ben­e­fits ser­vice, which col­lects the tax, has un­der­spent on its bud­get.

He said: “Given that coun­cil tax ar­rears have rock­eted, as has gen­eral debt, why are we un­der spend­ing in the depart­ment? There seems to be a cor­re­la­tion be­tween this and fall­ing col­lec- tion rates.”

“The rea­son is the re­ces­sion and the coun­cil is find­ing it more dif­fi­cult to get more from peo­ple. But what is a bit strange is that there is an un­der­spend in the staffing bud­get for that team. Surely if you spend money on staffing, you can col­lect more money?”

How­ever head of cor­po­rate ser­vices Steven Pilsworth said the in­creased amount was small in re­la­tion to the £70m col­lected across Peter­bor­ough and re­as­sured city tax pay­ers that they were “fully com­mit­ted” to col­lect­ing the ar­rears

He said: “This is an is­sue na­tion­ally and we are no dif­fer­ent to any­one else.

“We are fully staffed at the moment and are com­mit­ted to us­ing a range of mea­sures, in­clud­ing court as a last re­sort, to get back the money.

“Un­for­tu­nately some of the debtors are on ben­e­fits so it takes longer for the money to be paid, but these fig­ures have been am­massed over se­veal years and it grows be­cause we never write off the debts,

“It is too early to say how we are do­ing this fi­nan­cial year as the ma­jor­ity of peo­ple pay in di­rect deb­its but this is some­thing we are mon­i­tor­ing closely.”

John Har­ri­son, the coun­cil’s ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of strate­gic re­sources, said the im­pact of the re­ces­sion had put up coun­cil tax across the coun­try and stated that neigh­bour­ing ar­eas were ex­pe­ri­enc­ing sim­i­lar prob­lems.

He said: “Are we down on col­lec­tions, yes we are, but when you com­pare us to some of our neigh­bour­ing ar­eas we are not do­ing too badly.”

CON­CERN: Cllr Stephen Gold­spink

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