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£2m debt write-offs by Northumberland County Council

Northumberland County Council's home at County Hall in Morpeth.
Northumberland County Council's home at County Hall in Morpeth.

More than £2million owed to Northumberland County Council was written off last year.

However, the £2.01million total for 2017-18 includes £208,000 of debt written off by Homes for Northumberland, which was not previously included in the overall figures.

Without this, the write-offs for the last financial year are more in line with those in 2016-17 of £1.77million.

In 2015-16, the local authority gave up on £1.44million of debt, but that represented a major decrease from the previous year when £2.76million was written off.

On March 31 this year, the council was owed just over £15million, £7.33million of which was past due, meaning more than half of the debt is within terms.

The overall amount has almost halved since March 31, 2017, when the council was owed £29.86million, albeit only £8.66million was past due.

The write-offs for council tax in 2017-18 totalled £733,000, while for business rates, the figure was £602,000. Both of these are down on the previous year.

A further £167,000 was written off last year relating to overpayments for housing benefit.

The council receives either 40 per cent or 100 per cent subsidy of this from the Department for Work and Pensions, depending on whether the claimant has caused or contributed to the overpayment or if it as a result of an administrative error or delay.

Coun Nick Oliver, the council’s cabinet member for corporate services, said: “The debt written off has risen slightly, but only because Homes for Northumberland is included in the figures where previously they weren’t.

“The important indicator is debt past due – that has fallen and the majority isn’t due until the end of September.

“We still have the best council-tax collection rates in the North East, we are not quite the best for business rates but they are still high.

“Overall, it’s a very good picture and this council is very good at collecting its debts, which is important to make sure we have the revenue needed to deliver services.”

By Ben O'Connell, Local Democracy Reporting Service