Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Tax Dodgers Will Be Hunted Down; Pounds 9m of Unpaid Council Tax Chased Up

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Tax Dodgers Will Be Hunted Down; Pounds 9m of Unpaid Council Tax Chased Up

Article excerpt

Byline: Dave Black

FINANCE chiefs at Northumberland's cash-strapped super council are trying to recover almost pounds 9m in unpaid council tax inherited from the county's former district authorities.

The huge debt has been revealed following the abolition of Berwick, Alnwick, Castle Morpeth, Tynedale, Wansbeck and Blyth Valley councils on April 1 - and their replacement by the all-purpose unitary council.

At almost pounds 3.8m, Blyth Valley is responsible for by far the biggest share of the pounds 8.7m in council tax owed to the six former councils. Investigations are now being carried out by county council officials into the previous approach to chasing up arrears there.

The unitary council is setting up a unified and more stringent system of collecting council tax, which has led to some people being sent warning letters or court summonses wrongly stating they have not paid their bills.

County Hall bosses have apologised to anyone who receives the letters when they have paid, but say tougher action is needed to make sure that pounds 145m of council tax is collected this year - and that they claw back as much as possible of the missing pounds 8.7m. It is claimed some people in Blyth Valley have got away with not paying their council tax for several years.

Yesterday Lib Dem county council leader Jeff Reid said: "We have now got a more stringent collection system in place because we have inherited these problems of unpaid council tax, particularly in Blyth Valley.

"The message is simple: we have to have money to deliver council services and to do that people have to pay their council tax bills. I was a member of Blyth Valley Council for 14 years and I was never made aware of the dire straits the collection service was obviously in.

"Blyth Valley's Labour council seemed to be very good at spending money, but not so good at collecting it. …

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