Longer term payments means rise in bills

FAMILIES wanting to pay their council tax over 12 months instead of ten were told today that it would mean a three per cent rise in their bills.Defiant Woodbridge pensioner Peter Vangeersdaele challenged Suffolk Coastal's system in court and said that insisting on ten payments was unfair, while 12 meant he could spread the burden of the tax much more easily.

FAMILIES wanting to pay their council tax over 12 months instead of ten were told today that it would mean a three per cent rise in their bills.

Defiant Woodbridge pensioner Peter Vangeersdaele challenged Suffolk Coastal's system in court and said that insisting on ten payments was unfair, while 12 meant he could spread the burden of the tax much more easily.

Mr Vangeersdaele, 70, of Burkitt Road, said: "I realised by paying my tax over 12 months instead of ten, my payments would remain almost the same, the extra £184 required could be found and not disrupt my standard of living."

Leader of Suffolk Coastal, Ray Herring said calculations by finance officers had left councillors unconvinced of the merits of changing the current system.

But he told council the authority was flexible where there were cases of real hardship and people were finding it difficult to make ten payments and officers would treat each of these - less than 100 - case by case.

Suffolk Coastal's method of collecting the tax was the national statutory scheme of council tax bills being paid in full after ten months of the financial year.

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"This council has always been flexible and responsive to the needs and demands of its residents, but while the request for a 12 monthly payment system does sound straight-forward there would be an impact of over £150,000 on our budget," said Mr Herring.

"At present, about two-thirds of our payments are from direct debits over a ten month period as per the 1992 regulations. This means that we are able to earn interest on the money, an income that helps fund our services that would otherwise have to come from increased council tax bills.

"Probably most people would in principle support a 12 monthly payment system, but I strongly suspect they would not want to see their Suffolk Coastal council tax have to increase by three per cent in order to provide this extra service.

"The evidence also suggests that there is not really a pressing demand for this.

"There is already in place an efficient and effective support system for anyone facing financial difficulties. I would urge anyone who is having problems paying their bill to contact our offices immediately because there is help on hand from benefits and we will work to come to mutually agreeable payment systems."

n. How much harder is it for you to pay over ten months rather than twelve?

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