Council tax avoidance mounts

UNCOLLECTED council tax in Suffolk is costing each household more than £20 a year - and a staggering £18.7 million across East Anglia.The giant figure has emerged in a probe aimed at exposing local authority waste and highlighting the cost of tax cheats to law-abiding residents.

UNCOLLECTED council tax in Suffolk is costing each household more than £20 a year - and a staggering £18.7 million across East Anglia.

The giant figure has emerged in a probe aimed at exposing local authority waste and highlighting the cost of tax cheats to law-abiding residents.

In the past year, the amount of money collected by authorities in the region increased by nearly £100,000 - but the total outstanding is still £18.7m.

Reg Hartles, chairman of Protest Against Council Tax Suffolk, called for greater efforts in recouping the missing millions.

He said: “We cannot afford to have this amount of money owing to the councils but you have to ask, why is it missing?

“There will always be those who don't pay even if they can. They just don't want to pay their way - and this has to be clamped down on because the money could be used to invest in services or keep future rises down to the rate of inflation.

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“But there are also those who can't afford to pay because they struggle financially and the councils need to help these people. There are systems in place but maybe they could do more.

“We should also gee up the government in some way because part of the problem is they are not giving us enough grant so council tax increases.”

Justin Bowden, of the GMB Union, who carried out the investigation, said: “The GMB is not prepared to see people cheating the system to the detriment of our members and at the expense of the local tax payer.

“If this money had been collected by the councils, it could have been used to improve our services or hold down the level of council tax.”

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