Council plays down tax meltdown fears

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PREDICTIONS of council tax chaos and mass refusals to pay will not happen in Wigan, the council has promised.

A report, compiled by anti-austerity campaigning group False Economy, suggests local authorities across the country are preparing for large numbers of people being unable to pay their rising council tax bills when means-tested benefit schemes are abolished in April.

The report suggests more than 75 per cent of residents will not meet their payments in some areas of the country, leaving councils facing a substantial income shortfall to fund services.

However, Wigan Council has assured the borough’s residents the report’s more apocalyptic predictions will not occur, and legal action will be pursued against residents who do not pay their rising bills.

Despite these warnings, the local authority has said it does not believe this will be necessary, and has applauded residents for the positive attitude they have shown to making the best of the changes, including signing up for courses teaching money management skills and going through a range of payment options to suit individual circumstances.

Wigan Council award and taxation manager Penny Higgins said: “We have been preparing people for the changes by writing to each of the affected claimants ahead of them receiving their bill for 2013/14. We have explained the changes and how they will personally affect them, so that we can help to prepare them to manage their payments.

“We are making a wider range of payment options available, such as weekly, fortnightly or monthly, and inviting people to tell us the option that suits their individual circumstances. We are also offering advice and courses to help people get online and manage their money, which we are really encouraging people to take up.

“The response so far has been fantastic and many people have now set up their preferred payment option, with direct debit being a popular choice. The feedback I am receiving is that people are well informed of the changes and are willing to take the necessary action to comply.

“We anticipate that there may be a small number of cases of non-payment and these will be dealt with on a case by case basis. The current council tax charge for a band A property is around £183 and the council will follow the usual recovery process for non-payment in most cases.”