Hounslow Council Debts Write- Off 'Highest In UK'

Council wrote off a third of Council tax owed over 20 years

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Hounslow Council has written off nearly a third of the Council tax it was owed - with arrears totalling over £21 million- the highest rate in the UK, according to the latest government figures.

Last year the Council gave up chasing £9.1 million. However they did manage to collect £3.7 million which was owed from 2012 or before. The debts written off are believed to go back over nearly twenty years.

The statistics from the Department of Communities and Local Government also show that LBH council tax collection rates fell significantly last year from 97.8 per cent in 2012/2013 to 96.7 per cent, below the national average of 97.8 per cent.

The Council has defended its collection figures and said they had done a rationalisation of debt for the first time last year and the figures included monies owed from people who were deceased or insolvent and from whom there was no way any money could be recovered.

Cllr Theo Dennison, cabinet member for finance and citizen engagement, said: “The amount of bad debt written off last year reflects an accumulation of uncollectable arrears – due to deaths, insolvency and the like – going back more than 20 years

“Last year, the amount of recoverable debt collected rose to 19.0 per cent, up from 15.6 per cent the previous year - almost double the level for 2008/9 of 10.5 per cent. We will continue to pursue people for any monies owed, and will take whatever action necessary – up to and including prison as happened in one case last year.

“Local council tax payers should be reassured that we have not written off any debt that should, and will, be collected.

“Last year, we carried out an exercise to rationalise this debt for the first time, and wrote off the debt we know is definitely unrecoverable. These are cases such as where the debtors are deceased or insolvent and there is no legal means for us to recover that money. This has left us with a more accurate record of the debt owed to us, which we will continue to pursue until it is repaid.

“We know that some people have financial difficulties, and if they are unable to pay their council tax they should not ignore it, and should contact us as soon as possible to see what support we can offer.”

July 9, 2014