PORTSMOUTH City Council is owed more than £12m in unpaid council tax, it has been revealed.
Figures showed that cumulative council tax arrears across all years came to £12,422,857 at the end of the 2017-2018 financial year.
Of this, £4.6m was owed solely from the last financial year and £4.2m from 2016-2017, showing an increase in outstanding council tax.
Kirsty Edwards, from Portsmouth’s Citizens Advice, said this was partly due to the rising cost of living.
She said: ‘Recent benefit changes are making an impact on a client’s ability to sustain repayments towards essential costs of living such as rent, gas and electric and TV licence.
‘Contact between the residents in Portsmouth and our debt advisers show an increased number of deficit budgets, this is only noting essential expenditure prior to any luxury spending such as eating out or a social meeting for coffee.
‘We believe this is due to the increased cost of living and wages, which are not in line with current inflation. The increased cost of living, such as the cost of utilities, food shopping and travel.
‘We are also seeing that clients, along with council tax debt, have increased level of indebtedness.’
This financial year council tax for Band D homes in Portsmouth rose by 4.7 per cent as part of a national hike, resulting in a total cost of £1,580 a year. This amounts to £72 more than in 2017, but it is still £91 less than the national average.
Miss Edwards said: ‘We understand that making that first step can be very scary, but we have a very helpful team of specialist advisors on hand to help and assist through the debt advice process.’
Cllr Jeanette Smith, resources boss, said: ‘Paying council tax is important as it funds our services such as adults and children’s social care, libraries and street cleaning. Portsmouth City Council continues to recover outstanding council tax debts.’