Thousands face council tax arrears

Coun Peter Wilson

Coun Peter Wilson

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Almost one in 10 council tax payers in Chorley are in arrears, new figures have revealed.

There are 4,597 people in council tax arrears – 9.35 per cent of tax payers in the borough – an increase from 3,383 people (seven per cent) in 2013.

“The team has seen a dramatic increase in the number of clients worried about council tax debt, in particular since the introduction the council tax reduction scheme.”

Lisa Bolton

The total amount owed is £1,629,009, which is a cumulative total and includes money owed from the start of council tax in 1993.

That figure has increased from £1,160,826 in 2014-15 and £1,010,575 in 2013-14.

The largest amount owed by an individual is £13,926.08, the information shows.

Coun Peter Wilson, deputy leader of Chorley Council, said: “We have seen a significant increase in the number of homes built in the area in recent years and there have been changes to the welfare benefits system, the introduction of council tax support and changes to council tax discounts which have all had an impact on the numbers of people with a council tax liability.”

There are several options available to Chorley Council to recover council tax arrears, including bankruptcy proceedings, placing a charging order against a tax payer’s property, direct deductions from earnings or benefits, and referral to an enforcement agency.

If the enforcement agency’s action is unsuccessful, the council can pursue recovery through committal to prison proceedings. The number of people summonsed to court for non-payment of council tax in 2014-15 was 6,086, up 1.25 per cent from 6,009 in 2013-14.

Coun Wilson said: “We all have a responsibility to pay council tax. Indeed we do have an excellent council tax collection rate here in Chorley, typically around 98 per cent collected each year.

“However, there are people who do struggle to pay and if anyone finds themselves in that position, I’d urge them to get in touch with us on 01257 515151 as soon as possible as we can offer help and advice.”

Chorley Council receives just under 11 per cent of the council tax collected, while 10.5 per cent goes to the police and just over four per cent to Lancashire Fire And Rescue Service. The majority of the money collected from Chorley residents – 74 per cent – goes to Lancashire County Council.

County Coun David Borrow, deputy leader of LCC, said: “Council tax is an important way of funding local services.

“It’s vital that council tax is collected efficiently, particularly in the current financial climate where every penny counts. We welcome the way Chorley Council is still able to keep arrears to the minimum.”

Lancashire West Citizens’ Advice Bureau has seen a rise in the number of people seeking advice about council tax arrears.

Lisa Bolton, head of the debt team, said: “The team has seen a dramatic increase in the number of clients worried about council tax debt, in particular since the introduction the council tax reduction scheme. This scheme has replaced the council tax benefit system for the vast majority of claimants.

“For many however, the main cause of growing council tax debt is simply a matter of low income.”