Borough’s council tax debt soars

News story
News story

THE amount of council tax owed to cash-strapped Wigan Council has risen to almost £6m.

Collection rates have dropped from 96 to 95 per cent this year meaning a total of £5.8m is still to be paid.

But town hall bosses have vowed to recover most of the outstanding balance this year with £3.8m out of the previous year’s £4m arrears now collected.

Lesley O’Halloran, assistant director of customer services, said: “To be able to freeze council tax in future years and honour the Deal, we are committed to maximising collection tax due and also arrears for previous years.

“We have been able to achieve a 25 per cent improvement in collection of arrears this year. Council tax income pays for the vital public services people across the borough rely upon. That means it is extremely important we collect the money owed to us.”

In April, the Evening Post revealed that more than 26,000 court summonses were issued to residents for non-payment of council tax, compared with 14,092 the previous year.

The council said the slight reduction in collection rates could be attributed to changes to the welfare system.

Ms O’Halloran said: “The slower rate of collection reflects that 9,000 borough households were affected by the less generous local council tax reduction scheme, which was brought in by the government to replace the council tax benefit, and who previously did not pay any council tax.

“And 6,000 other households were also asked to contribute more than before. To help those affected by the changes, we offered a range of flexible payment plan options to them.”

More than £115m was collected by the local authority last year, meaning it achieved the target set in its annual budget forecast.

Council tax has been frozen for 2014/2015 as the council has called on residents to help it tackle the effects of budget cuts. In return for the freeze, Wiganers have been asked to improve recycling rates and contribute to community projects.

Last year the council recovered £2.1m of the previous year’s arrears.

Ms O’Halloran added: “The rate of collection of council tax from all households across the borough clearly demonstrates how important our residents feel the services we provide are and that the council tax reduction scheme has been well accepted and is sustainable. We are continuing to engage with those households who have not paid their council tax.”