Council tax debts at their ‘highest ever level’

Uncollected council tax in Northumberland has soared to almost £15 million, the "highest ever level" seen in the county.

Tuesday, 6th July 2021, 11:03 am
Council tax debt in Northumberland is at its highest level, figures reveal.
Council tax debt in Northumberland is at its highest level, figures reveal.

At the end of March this year, uncollected payments stood at a combined total of almost £15 million, which officials said was due to the coronavirus pandemic.

But the impact of Covid-19 also saw the local authority write off a fraction of the cash it has deemed irrecoverable in previous years.

By the end of 2020/21, finance chiefs had agreed to cancel outstanding charges worth £135,102 – just three years ago, in 2017/18, this figure would not have been enough to even cover the court costs associated with cancelled fees amounting to £740,127.

The biggest single debtor who saw their slate wiped clean owed more than £3,400 when they died without any money left for the council to collect.

In contrast, at least 710 households saw debts of less than £1 forgiven.

If all bills were paid in full in 2020/21, Northumberland County Council should have been able to raise about £211.2 million from 156,691 homes.

But although collections fell to their lowest levels in at least four years, down to 97%, bosses are confident that figures remains the highest in the whole of the North East and was at least partly supported by ‘Hardship Fund’ payouts to families during the pandemic.

Evidence of government support was also seen in the number of court summons issued, which fell to just a quarter of their 2019/20 numbers, while zero final notice reminders were posted.