£20m owed in council tax

Wigan Town Hall
Wigan Town Hall

The amount of money owed in council tax arrears has continued to rise, it has been revealed.

Wigan Council is owed £19,561,652 in unpaid council tax,according to a response obtained by the Evening Post under the Freedom Of Information Act.

That is a cumulative total of the arrears owed since council tax was introduced in 1993-94.

The amount outstanding at the end of the 2015-16 financial year was three per cent higher than the previous year, when £18,961,370 was owed.

Paul McKevitt, the council’s deputy chief executive, said: “Each year there is always a very small amount of uncollected council tax.

“This may be for a number of reasons including bill recalculations late in the financial year, taxpayers struggling to pay in the set time or the taxpayer leaving the area and the council are tracing their whereabouts.”

He said the council had a “robust and proactive approach to council tax collection”.

The council said the increase was due to the fact the financial year had just ended and it was in line with expectations.

The three per cent rise in the total amount of arrears is favourable compared to previous years.

Between 2012-13 and 2013-14, there was a nine per cent rise in arrears from £14.4m to £15.8m.

And from 2013-14 to 2014-15, the amount owed to the council increased by nearly 20 per cent to £18.9m, the information obtained by the Evening Post reveals.

Council tax ranges from £954.70 per year for band A properties in non-parish areas to £2,905.90 for band H properties in Shevington, where it includes a parish precept.

Charges were increased by the council in April, but they had been frozen for several years before that.

The information obtained by the Evening Post revealed that the largest amount of council tax owed by an individual was £13,308.85.

The smallest amount owed was just one penny.

Council tax reduction is available to some people who are on a low income or claim benefits and it replaced council tax benefit in 2013.

In Wigan, there are currently 28,732 claimants, who receive reductions of between 69p and £2,386.76.

The council can take action against those who do not pay council tax and the information shows 25,287 people were summoned to court for non-payment in 2015-16.

That was a drop of nearly five per cent compared to the year before, when 26,608 people were summoned.

Citizens Advice provides support for people with council tax arrears.

They suggest contacting the council to make arrangements for paying the arrears along with the usual council tax payments.

They also recommend checking the council tax bill is correct, for example discounts are available for people who live alone.