More than £14m of council tax still owed in Norfolk and Waveney
PUBLISHED: 13:59 21 July 2019 | UPDATED: 13:59 21 July 2019
Millions of pounds of council tax has gone uncollected by Norfolk and Waveney councils, but leaders insist they will have clawed back almost of all of the unpaid cash in the months ahead.
Government figures have revealed that just over £14m of council tax had not been collected by the end of the 2018/19 year.
But councils insisted they are prepared to take enforcement action to recover unpaid money, which is becoming increasingly crucial to local authorities as funding from central government dwindles.
Broadland District Council's 99pc collection rate saw it named the 12th most effective council at collecting council tax in the country, with just £827,000 still owed.
But Norwich City Council ranked 277th out of 326 councils, with its collection rate of 95.7pc meaning there was a £2.8m gap between the £66.6m owed and the £63.8m collected.
A City Hall spokeswoman said: "As a city, Norwich has a different economic environment to many of its neighbours, with a broader range of prosperity and deprivation, as well as a higher turnover of people and businesses. This is reflected in the latest figures.
"While this report shows we collected 95.7 per cent of council tax last year, it doesn't reflect that we continue to pursue the outstanding amount and usually end up recovering close to 99pc.
"We only write off debts when there is no longer a way of recovering the arrears without incurring disproportionate costs."
Broadland attributed its success partly to 14,000 households having signed up to electronic, rather than paper bills.
Trudy Mancini-Boyle, portfolio holder for finance, said: "We are extremely proud of these recent figures. They clearly demonstrate the council's dedication to helping residents pay the right amount of tax, using the best method for them is paying off."
North Norfolk ranked 34th, with a 98.7pc rate.
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Eric Seward, deputy leader of North Norfolk District Council and portfolio holder for finance, said: "North Norfolk District Council has historically had high collection rates for business rates and council tax. This is important as it funds public services, which in varying ways we all depend on.
"If households, business or residents need help with their taxes the vouncil always invites people to make contact with us to see what can be done to help resolve their issues."
South Norfolk was 86th, with 98.3pc. The council said the overall collection rate would end up being higher, as more money owed in 2018/19 would be collected during this financial year.
The council said it tried to work with people experiencing financial difficulties to agree affordable repayment plans and would try to find ways to avoid passing the debt to enforcement agencies.
West Norfolk was 161st with 97.7pc and Breckland was 172nd with 97.6pc.
Phil Cowen, Breckland Council's executive member for finance and growth, said: "Paying council tax is a legal responsibility and as a council we strive to achieve the highest possible collection rate.
"The national figures do not take into account council tax collected beyond the official end of a financial year and so our final collection rate is usually around 99.5pc."
Waveney ranked 240th, with 96.5pc and Great Yarmouth 273rd with 95.9pc.
In a statement, Great Yarmouth Borough Council said: "The council has strong in-year collection rates and continues to collect outstanding amounts into subsequent financial years, ultimately collecting more than 99pc of tax due.
"The borough council encourages those who are struggling to pay, or think they will struggle, to get in touch as soon as possible to discuss help available, as the council can be flexible to help people pay.
"Where an individual does not engage or pay, the council is not afraid to take recovery action to collect amounts owed.
"Tax owed is written off on a case-by-case basis as a last resort, once officers have considered the enforcement options and assessed the likelihood/viability of recovery."