£47,000 of ‘low level’ council tax written off
168 DEBTORS CANNOT BE TRACED
THE amount of ‘low level’ council tax debt written off as defaulters could not be tracked down rose significantly last year.
Stockport council says there were 168 ‘untraceable’ people during 2018/19 who owed up to £500. That was an increase of 55 on the previous financial year.
It amounted to £47,000 – well up on the 2017/18 total of almost £25,000.
Audit committee chairman Coun Stuart Corris asked officers what could be done to bring the figure down.
Alison Blount, the council’s revenues and benefits chief, said every effort was made to track debtors down but it was a difficult process.
She said: “We try very hard to trace people when they have outstanding council tax debt. It’s difficult because we are only required to collect very minimal information about people who are liable to pay council tax.”
She continued: “If someone provides us with a name and they leave the property and it’s a name that can’t be traced, there’s only so far we can go.
“We pass it on to collection agencies who make strenuous efforts to locate a debtor. But there comes a point where we can’t find them.”
However, she added that did not mean the debt was written off for good.
She said: “It doesn’t go away, it remains there and if, at a later date, the person is traced we write it back on and would recover it as soon as we find them.”
A low-level debt can be written off for a number of reasons – including when a debtor’s age or health make it inappropriate for the council to pursue them.
The overall amount of low-level council tax debt written off in 2018/19 was £303,000, while the figure for the previous financial year stood at £231,000.
But the longer-term trend is more positive, with the council having written off £250,000 from untraced debtors in 2015/16 and £90,000 the following year.
A council spokesman said: “Stockport council exhausts all reasonable avenues to collect council tax. The number of small-balance write-offs due to people not being able to be traced, represents less than 0.001per cent of the total number of council tax bills issued by the council in 2018/19.
“Some variance year on year is to be expected but at this low level it is not an indication of a rising trend.”
The man police would like to speak to about the incident