December 4 2013 Latest news:
by Matthew Stott
Tuesday, January 22, 2013
MORE than £3million of council tax was still owed to the cash-strapped borough at the end of last year, shock figures revealed today.
But despite the size of the outstanding debt, councillors have defended the sum – claiming the authority is a “very successful collector” of the tax.
The revelations came following a Freedom of Information request submitted by The Ipswich Star, which showed the council was left chasing £3,194,638.01 of unpaid council tax on December 31, 2012.
But councillor Martin Cook, resources portfolio-holder, said: “Ipswich Borough Council has a reputation as a very successful collector of council tax and we will keep on trying to collect unpaid tax however long it takes as long as it is economically viable.
“That is good business and is only fair to the vast majority who pay their council tax.”
By the end of March last year the outstanding figure stood at £4,712,414.53 – meaning £1,517,776.52 was collected in the last nine months of 2012.
The council insists it works with people who run into difficulties on payment arrangements and urges any resident struggling to pay to contact officers as soon as possible.
An Ipswich Borough Council spokesman said: “Currently 64 per cent of residents pay by direct debit which is the easiest method and we do encourage people to do this.”
On March 31, 2010, £3,534,579.00 was owed, meaning the overall figure dropped by 9.6 per cent in just over two-and-a-half years by December 31, 2012.
The figures also show that 20,363 reminders were issued to tax dodgers between March 31 and December 31 last year – an average of 73 every day.
There were 3,977 court summons in the same period and 3,448 liability orders were granted.
Robert Oxley, campaign manager for the TaxPayers’ Alliance, criticised the large sum of uncollected council tax.
He said: “Ipswich Borough Council needs to explain why there is such a large difference between what they expect to collect and what they are actually managing to bring in.
“The council cannot simply shrug its shoulders at such a large outstanding sum.
“It’s no wonder some people are struggling to pay their council tax though after a decade of hikes.
“It’s important that town halls differentiate between those who simply try to avoid paying and those who can’t afford to when dealing with cases.
“The latter should be helped with easier ways to pay, while the former should be pursued for outstanding bills otherwise taxpayers are left picking up the tab.”
Last year it was announced that the amount of uncollected council tax on a national scale – much dating back several years – stands at £2.3billion.
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