Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Council Tax Dodgers Cost Us All [Pounds Sterling]50 a Year; SHAMBLES OF BOROUGHS WHO FAIL TO COLLECT PAYMENTS FOR LOCAL SERVICES

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Council Tax Dodgers Cost Us All [Pounds Sterling]50 a Year; SHAMBLES OF BOROUGHS WHO FAIL TO COLLECT PAYMENTS FOR LOCAL SERVICES

Article excerpt

Byline: ROSS LYDALL

LOCAL authorities in London have lost more than [pounds sterling]1 billion because of council tax dodgers.

New figures show the extent of a decade of inefficiency and illegal evasion of the tax.

Since it was introduced in 1993, more than [pounds sterling]1.3billion has gone unpaid across the capital's 33 boroughs. Law-abiding residents have been paying nearly [pounds sterling]50 extra a year to compensate for people who refuse to pay, or who slip through the net as a result of council incompetence.

The figures follow Mayor Ken Livingstone's call for his share of London's council tax bills to be increased by 12 per cent next year to help tackle crime and terrorism.

Lambeth is shown to be the worst for the amount of lost revenue. It has failed to collect more than [pounds sterling]132million - money that should have been used to improve services in one of most deprived boroughs.

Other poor performers include Hackney, Haringey and Southwark, all of which also have high levels of deprivation.

Excluding the Corporation of London, which has few residents, even good performers such as Sutton lost more than [pounds sterling]11 million. Simon Hughes, Liberal Democrat candidate for London Mayor, obtained the figures in Parliamentary answers from Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott's department.

Mr Hughes said they show the tax is "unfair and inefficient".

He added: "Millions of pounds do not get collected, often leaving the poorest households and poorest boroughs to foot the bill. Those who pay, pay more, or have their services cut instead."

He said he would pressurise ministers to replace council tax with a local income tax, should he become Mayor next June. This would be cheaper to collect and take account of people's ability to pay, he claimed.

"Scrapping the council tax would save hundreds of millions in bureaucracy, stop people cheating the system and allow money to be returned to hard-pressed taxpayers," he added. …

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