Councils are owed millions of pounds in uncollected tax

BILLS Councils are owed millions in unpaid tax
BILLS Councils are owed millions in unpaid tax
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FOUR councils in the area are owed millions of pounds in council tax and business rates arrears, The News can reveal.

Some of the cash owed goes back to 1995 but Portsmouth City Council, and Havant, Fareham and Gosport borough councils each say they make every effort to claim the debts owed to them.

Each council has a collection rate of more than 97 per cent.

The largest of the four, Portsmouth is owed £10.837m as of the end of last month.

The council says it represents just 1.25 per cent of the £871.264m levied since 1993.

The authority received £67.666m in tax last year.

Councillor Gerald Vernon-Jackson, leader of the city council, said it is getting better at collecting and that debt unpaid is not forgotten.

He said: ‘We’ve been able to protect services in Portsmouth by making sure people do pay.

‘If people don’t pay in that year, we don’t forget about it, we pursue and pursue them for it for many years.

‘What we aim for is the total amount of council tax we will get in.

‘But some of it we don’t – if people go bankrupt or if people die.’

Figures for the remaining three councils date from March 31 last year, and were released this week by central government.

They show Gosport is owed £5.992m, Fareham £2.526m and Havant £3.544m.

Cllr Graham Burgess, deputy leader at Gosport, said it is important to differentiate between council tax and business rates, which is sent to government.

He said: ‘If businesses have gone to the wall, it hasn’t affected us as the treasury gets all the business rates.

‘If they split it down to domestic properties and business rates you would see for domestic properties, there’s very little owed.’

The money owed to Gosport represents around one per cent of total tax levied, meaning it has a collection rate of 99 per cent.

But Cllr Burgess added the council will pursue those who have not paid.

Similarly, Cllr Sean Woodward, leader of Fareham Borough Council, said it had collected more than 99 per cent of the £573m it has levied since 1999.

He added the council does not write off debt but it is not expected the £2.526m will ever be collected.

A spokesman for Havant Borough Council said each year it levies more than £53m and collects 97.6 per cent of that each year.