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Thursday, 23 October 2014

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Cumbria Councillors to write off more than £36k of tax arrears

MORE than £36,000 in unpaid council tax has been deemed “irrecoverable” by council bosses.

The sum – a total of £36,395.80 – is set to be wiped from the South Lakeland District Council balance sheet at a meeting of its cabinet committee next Wednesday.

It has been claimed the figure is below the target of bad debts the council expected to have accrued by the end of the financial year.

Alan Raven, SLDC revenues and benefits manager, said 99.7 per cent of payable council taxes were collected each year. Mr Raven said: “In some cases this can take a few years, as long-term payment arrangements are made in the most sensitive and vulnerable cases. The total write-offs in any one year do not exceed 0.3 per cent, but it is inevitable that in a small number of cases it is not possible to recover the debt, despite taking action through the magistrates court, involving bailiffs or applying for attachment of earnings or benefits.”

South Lakeland District Council collects more than £66m in council tax from 53,000 householders in the area every year.

The annual collection rate stands at 99 per cent.

A report to cabinet members states people who fail to pay their dues are subjected to a range of money recovery methods. These can extend to court prosecution, for which there is a maximum penalty of three months in jail.

But Mr Raven concedes in the document that some people still manage to slip through the net.

“The most common reason for writing off debts is that people abscond and cannot be traced,” he said.

“In the most vulnerable cases the council are always willing to enter into long-term payment arrangements rather than writing off a debt.”

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