Seven people taken to court a day for failing to pay council tax
- Credit: Archant
Seven people a day were taken to court by Brentwood Council last year for failing to pay their council tax.
And thousands of households were in arrears from April 2012 to March 2013, the new figures show.
Tax of £1.9million was owed at the time the summonses were issued, a freedom of information request by the Recorder has revealed.
In the same year, the council took 2,754 people to court to recoup the money.
The council says it recovered £1.3m – leaving £650,000 still outstanding at the end of the period. Most of this has since been recovered.
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Residents who fall behind in their payments are normally sent a reminder in the first instance. If the debt is still unpaid, a final notice is issued.
A summons to court is sent out as a last resort.
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Resources committee chairman Cllr John Kerslake said: “As the public would expect of its council, we work hard to recover all money due so that we have the maximum possible to spend on necessary and valued services.
“For 2012/13, we have recovered 98.3 per cent of council tax debt and, for the previous year 2011/12, we have recovered 97.9 per cent.
“We always try to work with residents to come to an arrangement where possible.”
But Labour group leader Cllr Mike Le-Surf said: “This is a sure sign that people are struggling to make ends meet under the Tory-led coalition government.
“With the Brentwood Tories supporting government-led council tax benefit cuts this year, the situation will only get worse for many residents.”
Jonathan Isaby, from pressure group the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said: “Any cash that goes uncollected increases the bill for those who are paying what’s due.”
After a decade of council tax hikes, he added, it was no surprise some people were still struggling to pay. They should be given easier ways to meet the cost, he said.
“But the council should vigorously pursue those who simply refuse to pay because they are increasing the burden even further on hard-pressed families paying their way.”
Call for firmer grip
Lib Dem and Pilgrim’s Hatch ward councillor David Kendall said: “This Conservative administration needs to get a firm grip on this issue. A lot of money is being spent on utilising legal powers to recover outstanding council tax.
“The £650,000 still outstanding at the end of the financial year is the equivalent of a seven per cent increase in the council tax.”