Council tax arrears bill revealed

File photo of houses
File photo of houses

WIGANERS have racked up a bill of unpaid council tax equivalent to £114 for every household in the borough, new figures have revealed.

Statistics released by the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) show the extent to which households are in arrears to Wigan Council.

However, the town hall says the vast majority of council tax owed by residents is collected, with the local authority successfully collecting 95 per cent of the £117m it was due in 2013/14 and also recouping a further £3.85m in arrears.

The council also hit back at national newspaper claims the country’s councils now face a shortfall of £2.5bn, which led the Government to accuse some authorities of not doing enough to get those falling behind on payments to surrender their owings.

Wigan Council said the figures represent the total amount unpaid over the past 22 years, as local authorities have to disclose to Westminster how much has been unpaid going back to 1993 each year.

Wigan Council assistant director for customer services Lesley O’Halloran said: “We have a robust and proactive approach to council tax collection so we can achieve the target set in the annual budget. This enables the council to fund vital services.

“Each year there is always a very small amount of uncollected council tax.

“This may be for a number of reasons.

“The fact we collected almost £4m in arrears in the last financial year shows that we do not give up on claiming council tax that is owed to the borough of Wigan.”

Wigan Council says Government welfare reforms have hindered residents’ ability to pay their council tax.

The authority cited the abolition of the Council Tax Benefit scheme and its replacement with a local reduction scheme as one reason for non-payment.

The changes meant some households are now paying council tax for the first time, with this debt from low-income homes being harder to collect.

Other reasons cited for arrears include bills being recalculated during the year, taxpayers struggling to pay at the set times or residents leaving the area which forces the council to trace them.