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Millions left unpaid from Gloucestershire's council tax bill

By The Citizen  |  Posted: January 25, 2014

Gloucester council tax bill: File picture

Comments (9)

Millions of pounds is being lost in unpaid council tax across Gloucestershire as bailiffs struggle to recover the lost cash to help maintain vital services.

Council tax makes up around a quarter of local government revenue and contributes to parking services, essential road maintenance, bin collections, the police and fire services.

Since 2009, local councils have been underpaid by more than £6 million, with Gloucestershire County Council receiving less as a result for its annual spending budget.

A bailiff, who works on behalf of councils collecting unpaid fees, said some people are choosing not to pay.

He said: “One of the councils that I work with has one of the highest collection rates in the country and works incredibly hard to recover outstanding debts.

“Generally, people are choosing not to pay their council tax. I visit some homes and they say they can’t afford to pay their council tax, but their recycling boxes are full, they smoke and they usually have a car on their drive.

“I went to one house and the man there had a 52 inch plasma TV on in the front room, and a 43 inch television in the kitchen, both on the same channel, both on cable.

“It is not unusual to go to a nice house and there are two cars parked outside, but they claim they cannot afford to pay. It is frustrating.

“There are genuine cases out there, but there are also cases where people are on a single person’s discount and they are cohabiting.

“For it to get to the stage of a bailiff to get involved, it is a last resort. There are genuine cases. Some have mental health problems, others are struggling to manage their lives. In my experience, councils will do everything in their power to help people.

“There are certain people who move on a regular basis to avoid paying, or who know they are about to move so stop paying their council tax. There are people out there with criminal intent. These people are cheating society, everyone else has to pay, why not them?”

Stroud District Council has collected £266.9 million over the last four years, but had to chase £3.1 million in outstanding debt, recovering all but £655,200. Tewkesbury Borough Council has £1.3 million in outstanding tax for the same period. Council tax in Stroud was frozen for the fourth straight year this week.

In Gloucester, £2.27 million is owed and £582,770 has gone unpaid in the Forest of Dean. Cheltenham has an outstanding balance of £941,399 for the last four years. Cotswold District Council said just one per cent of its council tax remained unpaid since 2009.

A spokesman for Stroud District Council said: “It is important we collect as much of the council tax due as possible.

“We take this very seriously as it funds the services we provide to our residents.

"When people are in difficulty, we work out payment plans to help them, but for those who refuse to pay we take a harder line.

“This approach means that we ultimately end up collecting pretty much all of the tax that is due.”

Cheltenham Borough Councillor, John Rawson, cabinet member for finance, said: “Cheltenham takes a very robust attitude to pursuing council tax debts.

"We don't stop chasing debts at the end of the financial year but go on following them up.

"So by the end, we generally achieve collection rates of over 99 per cent.”

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  • willyrave  |  July 22 2014, 2:06PM

    The system doesn't work well and that means that authorities are irresponsible. It would have been impossible to lose so much money if the process had been correctly organized. Now http://tinyurl.com/la65yhe may be the only way out.

  • Saffy  |  January 25 2014, 7:57PM

    For a second then I thought the bill was to a Mrs A Hole....that might liven this newspaper up!

    |   3
  • JemmyWood  |  January 25 2014, 11:52AM

    Its not the Gloucester City Council doing the actual collecting of the money of Council Tax Bills though...It was privatised and contracted out a few years ago to save money......

    |   4
  • verysceptical  |  January 25 2014, 10:51AM

    Surely this would be the ideal story for one of TiG's many spammers to drop in their "I earnt £20k just by sitting at my laptop all day..." comments?

    |   9
  • honslknjklyt  |  January 24 2014, 10:25PM

    If everyone just pays the same amount in taxes and such rather than bracketed, it would make so much more sense. It is biblical - 10%1 If a poor person has no money or very little, 10% of nothing or very little is simply nothing or very little. If a rich person has £10 million pound pay packet a week, then 10% of £10 million pound is a lot of money indeed, but they are both contributing the same - 10% of their income.

    |   -3
  • MrGarnet  |  January 24 2014, 7:59PM

    A local income tax deducted from wages and other income from everyone is fairer and better.

    |   -2
  • MrGarnet  |  January 24 2014, 7:57PM

    A local income tax deducted from wages and other income from everyone is fairer and better.

    |   -4
  • RoadWombat  |  January 24 2014, 5:18PM

    Couldn't agree more. Interesting, though, that they'll make every effort to collect unpaid council tax now their budgets are being cut to more realistic levels. Before the cuts they had so much money sloshing around they didn't bother too much.

    |   4
  • IsitJimKerr  |  January 24 2014, 4:09PM

    I'm fed up with fines and bills going unpaid. Just deduct it from wages/salary or benefits.....oh, or ACTUALLY pay what you owe, like most honourable members of society.

    |   12