Council-tax failure claims rubbished

ASHFIELD District Council has poured scorn on a claim by a trade union that it has failed to collect council tax totalling £1.2 million in the last financial year.

The figure is among a controversial list issued by the GMB public services union.

The list also shows a figure of £648,000 in uncollected non-domestic rates for Ashfield during the same period, making a total of £1,902,000 — at a time when councils are having to make major cuts to reduce public spending.

This places Ashfield an unflattering seventh in a league table of the East Midlands’ 20 district councils.

The GMB says the figures are from an analysis it has made of official statistics for uncollected council tax and non-domestic rates for 2010-11, published by the Department for Communities and Local Government.

In a statement, the union declares: “It is a scandal and a disgrace when vital services for our elderly people and our children are being slashed due to government cuts in funding that more than £1 billion nationally is uncollected in council tax and business rates.”

But Ashfield Council’s deputy chief executive (resources), Dave Greenwood, said the actual figure for uncollected council tax in the district in 2010-11 was only half of the one issued by the GMB, while the amount for non-domestic rates was also much lower.

He said: “Our uncollected debt for 2010-11 as at January 31 this year is £628,778 and for non-domestic rates it is £415,123.

“The amount collected for the 2010-11 debt since April 1 last year is £628,271 for council tax and £303,159 for non-domestic rates.

“Recovery action — including by bailiffs and deductions made from earnings or benefits — is ongoing on these amounts and 98.6% of the sum due for collection has been recovered to date.

“It is usually the case that in excess of 99% of the amount due for collection is eventually recovered, both for council tax and non-domestic rates.”

The GMB list puts Nottingham City Council at the top of the East Midlands table with uncollected amounts of £5,578,000 and £3,883,000 for council tax and non-domestic rates respectively, making a total of £9,461,000.

Rutland County Council takes pride of place for the lowest total figure of £284,000.

The figures given for the whole of England are £612,458,780 for council tax and £409,371,840 for non-domestic rates, amounting to £1,021,830,620.

Ashfield Council is due to set its council tax for the financial year 2012-13 on Wednesday February 29.