Council writes off more than £3m in unpaid council tax

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Wakefield Council has written off almost £3.3million in unpaid council tax during the past five years.

The local authority has issued more than 100,000 court summons over non-payment since 2013,  to try and pursue the outstanding debt.

Neil Warren, Wakefield Council’s chief finance officer, said: “We take council tax collection very seriously but also recognise that for various reasons some people may struggle to make payments.

“We do have support available to help people make affordable payments. In certain circumstances we can make arrangements to give people longer to pay.

“We do not write debts off readily, as we are aware that people’s circumstances may change and just because they’ve not made payments on time doesn’t mean they can’t do so in the future.

The figures, revealed as a result of a Freedom of Information request, showed that the amount written off by Wakefield Council since 2013 was the least of all five West Yorkshire councils.

Bradford decided not to pursue £18m worth of debt, Kirklees wrote off £12m, Calderdale £6.5m and Leeds £4m.

If any amount of council tax goes unpaid, households are sent a reminder, asking them to pay the full amount within seven days.

But if this is ignored legal proceedings are started.

Non-payment can result in a prison sentence of up to three months, but no-one from the Wakefield district has been jailed for the offence in the past five years.

A total of 96 people living in Bradford and a further two in Calderdale went to prison for not paying up.

Advice on Wakefield Council’s website says that if the debt is repaid quickly after a summons is sent no further action will be taken.

And although a defendant can negotiate the amount they owe before a court hearing, the local authority says proceedings continue regardless in that instance.

Anyone struggling to pay their council tax is advised to call either the Wakefield Citizens Advice Bureau on 03444 111 444 or StepChange debt charity on 0800 138 1111.

In numbers

Amount of unpaid council tax written off in Wakefield since 2013 – £3.3m

Number of reminders to pay council tax sent in that time – 347,269

Number of court summons’ issued – 101,405

Number of liability orders issued – 89,399