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Council committed to collecting unpaid council tax fairly

City of Wolverhampton Council will continue to leave no stone unturned as it pursues non payment of council tax.

The local authority puts considerable effort into collecting all revenue owed to it and will never write off a debt until all avenues have been exhausted - even if it takes years.

Councillor Andrew Johnson, City of Wolverhampton Council's Cabinet Member for Resources, said that he had been concerned by a local media report earlier this week which wrongly suggested the amount of uncollected council tax in the city had rocketed from £324,000 in 2009/2010 to almost £5 million in 2016/17.

Councillor Johnson said: "A report appeared in local media earlier this week which inaccurately reported the amount of unpaid council tax owed to us had increased massively - by well over 1000% - over the past 8 years.

"It appears that the paper misinterpreted some figures it found on our website which is very unfortunate.

"The figures the paper based this story on showed the amount of unpaid council tax that was still outstanding from each year going back over the past 8 years.

"It can often take years to recover unpaid debt - but we don't give up, we work tirelessly for as long as it takes within the parameters of the law to ensure people pay what they owe.

"Obviously the amount of money still owed to us dating back from 2009/2010 is much less than the money owed to us from 2016/2017. This simply reflects the success we have had in chasing up those debts over several years.

"At the end of 2009/2010 we were owed £3.48 million - which now stands at £324,000. Likewise, at the end of 2016/2017 we were owed £7.57 million and that now stands at £4.9 million and will continue to reduce as we successfully recover the debt."

Councillor Johnson acknowledged that Central Government changes, including the removal of Council Tax Benefit, had meant low income households were now having to pay more council tax than before and this had led to an increase in non payment.

He added: "Changes in the law made by Central Government mean more low income households must now pay council tax than in the past. Inevitably, this means that some people find it incredibly hard to pay and this has seen an increase in unpaid council tax.

"However, unlike the 1425% increase in non payment wrongly reported earlier this week, the actual increase in non payment over the past 8 years is around 3%."

City of Wolverhampton Council is committed to responsibly collecting unpaid council tax and will not write off debt unless payment is impossible - i.e. if a person dies and leaves no money in their estate, if a customer is insolvent or if legal action is unlikely to be successful.

Most debt is paid after reminders are sent or when a debtor is located if they have moved house etc.

Where a person with the means to pay continues to fail to do so, the council uses methods of debt recovery including placing orders against a property to ensure debts are paid when the property is sold, obtaining attachment of earnings orders where a debt is paid directly from a person's salary or attachment of benefit orders where a debt is paid directly from a person's benefit.

Councillor Johnson said that while the council was committed to recovering debt, it did so in a responsible way which avoided adding to people's financial problems.

He said: "We were the first council in the country to sign up to the new Citizens Advice council tax protocol and we have been praised by the Money Advice Trust for reducing the amount of court summons we issue which add £77 cost to a person's debt, signposting customers to free debt advice and having a formal policy in place covering residents in vulnerable circumstances."

  • released: Thursday 11 January, 2018