Recent information, released under the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act, has shown that some local authorities are less than proficient when it comes to collecting unpaid council tax.
It is certainly an accusation that could be levelled at Cornwall Council, with the figures revealing it is still owed more than £14 million in council tax arrears, stretching back more than a decade.
This comes despite the fact that bailiffs were called in thousands of times as part of enforcement action to collect unpaid council tax.
The data states that since 1999, the total amount of council tax owed in Cornwall stands at £14,632,072.20.
Cornwall Council has said it was “continuing to take action to collect the arrears owned”, however the revelations have seen them come under attack from the TaxPayers’ Alliance, for not collecting the tax when public services are under severe pressure due to budget constraints.
Dia Chakravarty, political director at the TaxPayers’ Alliance, an independent campaign calling for lower taxes, said: “When times are tight councils really cannot afford to have millions of pounds worth of unpaid tax.
“Councils must show greater flexibility in collecting tax payments and help those who are genuinely struggling, while ensuring that tough action is taken against those who refuse to pay.
“Ultimately, the best way to help people pay taxes is to keep them low and affordable, providing only essential services.”
The authority has defended itself against claims of complacency by insisting that it is rigorous in the way it seeks to recover council tax debt, but always looks to make a payment arrangement with the debtor if at all possible.
Alex Folkes, Cornwall Council’s Cabinet Member for Finance and Resources said: “Cornwall Council takes its responsibility to collect council tax very seriously indeed. We rely on council tax to pay for the services that the people of Cornwall, our businesses and our visitors rely on. That is why we don’t write off debts and will take all reasonable steps to recover money owed to us.
“Our collection rate is very good compared with similar councils around the country and our collection teams have a very good track record in their efforts despite the downturn in the economy.”
Mr Folkes urged anyone having difficulty paying their council tax to contact the authority as soon as possible.
If you’re in dispute with your council over unpaid council tax or feel you are entitled to relief but are unsure of what to do about it, contact Council Tax Advisors today for free, independent advice.