£20m owed to Wakefield Council in unpaid tax bills

10th Febuary 2011.'Wakefield Town Hall'Picture: MATTHEW PAGE
10th Febuary 2011.'Wakefield Town Hall'Picture: MATTHEW PAGE

The district’s council tax payers owe almost £20m in unpaid bills after an increase in people falling into arrears.

The amount of unpaid tax owed to Wakefield Council increased by more than £4m –from £16.2m to £19.5m – in the 12 months ending this April, latest figures show.

Arrears increased after Council Tax Benefit was scrapped and around 15,000 people who previously did not have to pay started being billed.

A council report said the number of court summonses issued to former Council Tax Benefit claimants rose by 4,800.

Financial support is still available for people on low incomes or benefits, but all council tax payers are required to pay at least 30 per cent of their bill.

The report said: “In a context of reducing welfare benefits and increasing household costs, those individuals with increased amounts of council tax to pay may face increasing financial hardship.

“Financial hardship is likely to increase the non-payment of council tax and this will affect the income available to the council.”

Methods used to recover unpaid tax include court orders for the cash to be deducted from benefits or wages.

There were 4,835 attachments to benefits last year, up from 2,115 in 2012–13, and 4,301 attachments to earnings, up from 3,868 the previous year.

Deductions from benefits were made at £3.65 per week. It would take up to 87 weekly deductions to recover a year’s council tax from a benefit claimant in a Band A property.

The report added: “This obviously means that the council tax for one financial year will not be cleared before subsequent years will become due.”