More than £6m in council tax uncollected

CAMPAIGNERS voiced concern today after it emerged councils in Suffolk had failed to collect more than £6 million in council tax last year.

CAMPAIGNERS voiced concern today after it emerged councils in Suffolk had failed to collect more than £6 million in council tax last year.

In 2006/07, £6.2m worth of council tax went uncollected in Suffolk, according to a survey published by public services union GMB.

Council tax campaigners voiced concern at the figure last night and said recovering uncollected council tax ought to be a priority for every authority, not just those that were cash-strapped.

Reg Hartles, chairman of the Protest Against Council Tax Suffolk, said: “Obviously this amount is so significant that one would hope they are doing the maximum possible to recover it.

“It's of concern to us. It's such a large amount, you cannot put that aside and forget about it.

“I would hope they would be anticipating recovery of the majority of the £11m before they think of redundancies.”

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Waveney District Council had the highest level of uncollected council tax in Suffolk at more than £2m - £409,000 more than the previous year's total.

It was followed by Ipswich Borough Council at £1.5m, which was £186,000 lower than the previous year.

Bruce Provan, Waveney's portfolio holder for revenues, benefits and housing management, said: “Waveney District Council has already made it very clear that performance in this area was not satisfactory and having publicised our intentions earlier this year, we are now well into a robust improvement programme that is producing real and unequivocal results.

“Having achieved a council tax collection rate of 95.2% in 2006-07, we set an improvement target of 97.5% for 2007-08 and at the end of July, we are delighted to actually be ahead of that challenging figure.

“There are many reasons for this but primarily we are coming down hard on those who refuse to pay, issuing no fewer than 4,564 court summonses during the past year. We have also issued over 5,000 reminder notices and nearly 6,000 final notices.”

Suffolk as a whole saw the amount of uncollected council tax fall by £137,000 in 2006-7.

In Great Britain, the amount of uncollected council tax was £760m - an increase of £19.4m on the previous year.

Justin Bowden, GMB senior organiser, said: “GMB has been criticised in recent years for publicising the inefficiency of council tax collection but I make no apologies for that.

“With over £760m uncollected council tax nationally in the last year alone and more than half of councils getting worse at it, this is a serious issue.”

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