More than £200k of council rent goes uncollected

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FAREHAM council is looking at new ways of making sure it gets the money it is owed.

The borough council is looking at creating a new policy for debt recovery as it is revealed that it is owed more than £200,000 in rent arrears from its tenants.

At the end of the last financial year the council was owed £222,561 from 614 cases, an increase on the previous quarter’s total.

And as the figure represents 2.12 per cent of the annual rent roll, it missed the council’s target of 1.95 per cent.

But council leader Cllr Sean Woodward said: ‘We have a policy of pursuing all debts.

‘Every debt that isn’t collected is effectively a charge on the taxpayer, and that’s why we’re pleased that our council tax collection rate is proportionately speaking almost the best in England.

‘But when it comes to housing, if somebody dies, or if somebody is declared bankrupt or if they disappear, you don’t get the money.

‘In the overall scheme though, it is a small percentage out of the millions we collect as rent. We would rather have no debts outstanding, but that is unavoidable.

‘One way or another, the money we can’t collect becomes a burden on the taxpayer, either nationally or locally.’

The council has published a draft policy for the collection and recovery of debts it is owed.

The policy aims to make sure there is consistency across the council’s services.

And the council is keen that the widest possible range of businesses, organisations and members of the public comment on the draft.

Cllr Woodward added: ‘The council has a good track record for collecting money which is owed to it, but some people find it extremely difficult especially in the current economic climate.

‘This is an opportunity for people to have their say about how the council can ensure that it supports those that genuinely can’t pay, whilst making sure that those with the means to pay do so, in the same way that very many of our customers already do.

‘If anyone has any good ideas, we would be very happy to hear from them.’

Read the draft policy and complete a consultation form at fareham.gov.uk/consultation until Monday, September 10. Paper copies are available from the civic offices or can be requested on (01329) 236100.