18,000 threatened with court action over tax bill

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MORE than 18,000 people in Portsmouth and south Hampshire have been taken to court for not paying their council tax.

In the current financial year Portsmouth City Council and Havant, Fareham and Gosport Borough Councils have issued 18,251 orders to take people to magistrates’ court for failing to keep up with payments.

In Gosport the figure rose from 2,525 in the previous financial year to 2,621 – the only area which saw an increase.

Mark Hook, leader of Gosport Borough Council, said: ‘I am disappointed we have had to take so many people down that route, especially as we are open to negotiation.

‘The message to people is to communicate with us.

‘If you talk to us and explain the situation then we can at least come to a reasonable solution. It may well be paying the bill over a longer period of time or to give help.

‘In Gosport the increase in number is a sign of the times and the recession, which is having an effect on the ordinary person.’

The figures have been revealed following a Freedom of Information request. In Portsmouth 9,926 people have so far been issued with an order. Havant issued 4,095 court orders issued, while Fareham had the lowest at 1,609.

Jane Henderson, manager of the Portsmouth Community Legal Advice centre, said the figures do not surprise her, adding: ‘We have undoubtedly been busier this year than before.’