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Region's unpaid council tax tops £17m

PUBLISHED: 07:35 22 June 2006 | UPDATED: 11:04 22 October 2010

LORNA MARSH

The region has missed out on more than £17m in lost revenue over the past year as a result of unpaid council-tax, it was revealed yesterday.

The region has missed out on more than £17m in lost revenue over the past year as a result of unpaid council-tax, it was revealed yesterday.

In Norfolk alone £6.17m remained uncollected while the figures for Suffolk and Cambridgeshire stood at £6.39m and £4.64m respectively, according to figures released by the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (ODPM).

While most councils reported the same or better collection rates than the previous year, Waveney and Yarmouth saw a dip.

Yarmouth was named and shamed as holding one of the worst records in the region for getting council tax, with only 95.7pc of revenue collected - with more than £1.3m uncollected - compared to 96.2pc the previous year.

No-one from the borough council was available for comment yesterday.

Norwich saw a slight improvement on last year's figures, with 96.6pc of revenue collected compared to 96.4pc the previous year but it still equated to £1.37m uncollected.

A spokesman from Norwich City Council said that more revenue had been collected since the figures were released to the ODPM.

"Norwich City Council uses all methods of collection that we are empowered to do under the legislation.

"Bailiff action, attachments of earnings, benefits, bankruptcy and ultimately imprisonment action," he said.

"At every stage of recovery we actively encourage debtors to contact the council to mutually agree repayment plans based on individual circumstances. Customers are advised to make applications for council tax benefit where appropriate which would reduce their repayments.

"Fully trained advisors are able to give advice and ensure all applicable discounts and exemptions are claimed and granted."

John Dobson, leader of King's Lynn and West Norfolk council where collection rates remained static at 98.1pc, the equivalent of £1.03m uncollected last year, said everything was being done to collect the money.

"Quite clearly it is revenue that is not available to the county. We have an active programme to attempt to collect it whether through council staff or debt collection agencies - it is not an easy task because people move and some of them deliberately avoid paying.

"We are constantly looking at new ways to get council tax owing paid and I have personally looked at our own staff and am full of admiration for what they do - it is not a pleasant task at all."

Commenting on national figures showing collection rates have improved slightly from 96.6pc to 96.8pc, the chairman of the Local Government Association, Sandy Bruce Lockhart, said:

"Not only are councils delivering more efficiency savings than any other part of the public sector, but they are improving in the way they collect the cash needed to help pay for services.

"It must be borne in mind that council tax only accounts for one-quarter of all the money spent by local authorities.

"Very real difficulties and challenges remain."


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