MORE than half a million pounds is owed to South Lakeland District Council.

The council invoices for certain services and charges and is owed £576,000 in debts dating back to 2014, a meeting heard.

Cllr Mark Wilson, Labour councillor for Ulverston East, said it would be ‘remiss’ not to ask ‘what efforts’ were being made to get back the money.

“What strides are we making to make that debt figure nil? We could do a lot of good if all that money were to roll in and become extra for us,” said Cllr Wilson.

SLDC officers said the debt represented a small fraction of the £46 million it had issued invoices or credit notes for from 2014 to 2019-20. During that time, its recovery rate was 98.8 per cent, it said.

Cllr Andrew Jarvis, cabinet member for finance, said when the council was owed money it took appropriate action on a debt-by debt basis.

Cllr Jarvis said: “In a number of cases, I know legal action is being pursued in order to get a resolution.”

Helen Smith, financial services manager for SLDC, said the council did its ‘very best’ to get back money owed.

When someone does not pay up, options available to the council include contacting the debtor, hiring bailiffs or going to court, she said.

Mrs Smith said: “It’s fair to say we are very reluctant to write off the debt and do our utmost to gather whatever we feel is collectable.”

The meeting heard that 35 per cent of the £576,000 related to works carried out on a ‘dangerous structure’ in Kendal, although the council declined to reveal which building it was.

A council spokesman said: “It is important that residents know that the council is serious about collecting the monies owed to the council. This is money that goes to provide the many services that we deliver for residents.

“However, the council aims to treat residents with respect and wherever possible reach mutually satisfactory arrangements when someone is experiencing difficulty making payments.

“The council will always strive to come to amicable arrangements with residents when they experience difficulty paying any monies owed to the council.

“Wherever possible the council enters into special arrangements rather than use enforcement or recourse to legal proceedings.’’

The debt total includes those who have agreed to pay the council in instalments.