Council tax debt tops the £1m mark

Chorley Town Hall
Chorley Town Hall

Chorley residents owe more than £1m in unpaid council tax, it has been revealed.

New figures, released to the Chorley Guardian under the Freedom of Information Act, show that 3,383 people are in council tax arrears.

That equates to seven per cent of all council tax-payers in the borough.

Debts totalling £1,009,111.99 have built up since the council tax was introduced in 1993, the information shows.

They range from people with an outstanding balance of £2 to one individual who owes £11,686.55.

Council tax arrears have increased over the past five years, with £934,595 owed at the end of the 2012-13 financial year, compared to £634,772 at the end of 2008-09.

The majority of the money collected in council tax from Chorley residents - 74 per cent - goes to Lancashire County Council, with 10.5 per cent going to the police and four per cent to the fire authority.

Around 11 per cent of the money - £110,000 - is owed to Chorley Council.

Coun Peter Wilson, who is responsible for council tax payments for Chorley Council, said: “While it does seem a lot of money, Chorley’s collection rate compares very favourably with other local authorities.

“Indeed last year we collected over 98 per cent of the council tax.”

The council has taken action against taxpayers in arrears, which can range from discussing repayment options to bankruptcy proceedings and bailiffs.

The information obtained shows that over the past five years, 21,793 court summons have been issued for non-payment of council tax.

Coun Wilson said: “We continue to collect arrears, but in a large number of cases where they’ve been subject to legal proceedings, the debt is repaid under a court order by magistrates taking into account the financial circumstances of the customer and so can take a number of years to clear, which is compounded further by additional council tax charges.

“We all have a responsibility to pay our council tax and the council does take non-payment very seriously.”

Despite the arrears, the council has raised £50m in council tax during this financial year alone.

The annual sum collected by the council has increased over the years, due to new housing developments, and is expected to rise further.

And the council is offering help to those finding it difficult to pay their council tax bill.

Coun Wilson added: “If people are struggling to pay, I’d urge them to get in touch with us on 01257 515151 as soon as possible as we may be able to tailor payments to reflect their financial circumstances.”