ASHFIELD District Council has come under fire after it was revealed that nearly £2.7m is owed to the authority in unpaid council tax.
Figures obtained under the Freedom of Information Act show the Labour-run council is still chasing debts of just over £2.69m – prompting opposition councillors and Sherwood MP Mark Spencer to demand more must be done to ensure the cash is clawed back.
The shock statistics shows the cash-strapped authority is owed £800,173 for the financial year 2011/12 and that the debts date back as far as the 1998/9 financial year.
For 2010/11, there is £450,239 outstanding; for 2009/10 there is £353,630 outstanding; for 2008/09 there is £261,116 outstanding; for 2007/08 there is £183,294 outstanding; for 2006/07 there is £150,306 outstanding; for 2005/06 there is £115,157 outstanding; for 2004/05 there is £113,396 outstanding; for 2003/04 there is £102,669 outstanding; for 2002/03 there is £86,579 outstanding; for 2001/02 there is £46,888 outstanding; for 2000/01 there is £25,014 outsanding; for 1999/00 there is £7,760 outstanding and for 1998/99 there is £791 still to collect.
Last year, Chad reported that the council needed to make savings of £1.6million in the 2013/14 financial year in order to balance its books. This is followed by a further £1.1million in 2014/15.
But opposition leaders have criticised the council for failing to collect the cash it is owed and say it could be used to plug the funding shortfall and prevent cuts to services.
Coun Jason Zadrozny, who leads the Liberal Democrat group, said: “The savings are redundancies. When you take people out, you take services out.”
He also said that more needed to be done to help struggling householders who fall behind with their council tax payments.
“We need early intervention – people need advice and encouragement,” he said. “They need people to advise and support them earlier.
“We represent people who are struggling day after day and they deserve to get basic council services and they aren’t getting them.”
Gail Turner, an Independent councillor who represents Selston, said: “Opposition councillors have complained about this and it gets even worse when you add it all up.
“I was told that they were looking for 25 voluntary redundancies at the council and what that boils down to is a cut in services for people – people who pay the full amount of council tax.
“I’m desperate to have CCTV in Selston. It is often the lonely, the old and infirm who are targeted by anti-social behaviour. I’m constantly being told no because we can’t afford it. But if we had the £2.7million perhaps we could.”
Meanwhile, Conservative MP Mark Spencer, whose Sherwood constituency includes Hucknall, said that the council needed to ‘pull its finger out’ and make sure people were paying their fair share.
He said: “Council tax is a real pressure on people and I think it makes it hard for those who are striving to pay their council tax if there are those who aren’t playing the game.
“There are people in Hucknall who are working 50 hours a week to make ends meet and to pay their bills.
He also said that the council would not need to make cuts if it collected all the council tax.
“Sometimes it’s easier to just cut a service than think outside the box about how they can deliver them more efficiently,” he said.