Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Councils Now Owed Pounds 28.7m

Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

Councils Now Owed Pounds 28.7m

Article excerpt

Byline: By PAUL MCMILLAN

TOWN halls across the North East today stand accused of failing to collect more than pounds 28.7m in council tax.

The GMB union says uncollected council tax in the region rose by pounds 576,000 in 2006/07 from just under pounds 28.2m the year before.

According to the study, top of the pile in the region was Newcastle City Council, which ended the financial year owed a total of pounds 3.5m, roughly equal to the starting salary for 175 new-ly-qualified teachers.

But the authority has defended its record on collections as the figure for last year represents a drop by more than pounds 800,000 on that owed the year before.

A council spokesman said: "Newcastle City Council is determined to improve the recovery of council tax collection each year.

"The implementation of our new IT system has been instrumental in this. Newcastle met its target of 95.5% collection of the total debit in 2006/07.

"Council tax legislation means that those who can afford to pay but choose not to are subject to stringent recovery actions which can ultimately lead to bankruptcy.

"Those who genuinely can't afford to pay are supported through the availability of means-tested council tax benefit."

Just last month, Newcastle City Council's benefit team prosecuted two cheats for falsely claiming council tax and housing benefits.

Paul Callan, aged 43, formerly of The Cedars, Crud-das Park, claimed housing and council tax benefit for over a year for a council flat in which he was no longer living. …

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