£47,000 of ‘low level’ coun­cil tax writ­ten off

168 DEBTORS CAN­NOT BE TRACED

Manchester Evening News - - NEWS - By NICK STAHAM Lo­cal Democ­racy Re­port­ing Ser­vice

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

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