Overdue council tax bill nearly £19k

Wigan Town Hall
Wigan Town Hall

Council tax arrears totalling more than £14,000 are owed to the town hall by an individual living in the borough, it can be revealed.

Data provided under the Freedom Of Information Act shows the largest amount owed to Wigan Council at the end of 2016-17 by one person was £14,431.98.

In comparison, the smallest amount of council tax debt was just one penny.

The total amount outstanding at the end of 2016-17 was £18,930,777 which is the arrears since council tax started in 1993-94. That compared to £17,488,451 the previous year and £18,961,370 at the end of 2014-15.

The amount outstanding for just the 2016-17 financial year was £6,168,564.

The information provided by the council says 26,030 people were in council tax arrears then - 14 per cent of the total number of tax-payers in the borough.

Paul McKevitt, deputy chief executive of Wigan Council, said: “Last year, we collected £125m in council tax from residents and this year, we’re on target to collect almost £130m.

“The council tax we collect helps fund essential services for our residents and we are committed to recovering what is owed in full. We consistently collect more than 95 per cent of all council tax within the year it is due and usually reach 99 per cent collection within five years.

“In cases of non-payment, we will take appropriate action to ensure the amounts owed are repaid.

“We want to help our residents with their payments and have undertaken a large scale review to identify unclaimed council tax reduction, which will help households especially during this financially demanding time of year.

“We encourage anybody who may be experiencing financial difficulties to contact us soon as possible to arrange a repayment plan.”

During the financial year, the council summonsed 24,872 people to court for non-payment, a 1.64 per cent reduction on the previous year.

It is one form of action that can be taken against people who fail to pay their council tax bills.

The response states: “Wigan Council will endeavour to make payment arrangements with council tax payers where possible if ordinary statutory instalment payments have not been met.

“If a customer does not pay the instalments as demanded and does not engage with the council to make an alternative arrangement to pay, the council will use the provision under council tax regulations to make an application to the magistrates’ court for a liability order to be made for non-payment of council tax.

“The council will then endeavour to establish the liable parties’ circumstances in order to make a decision on how to recover the debt. This will usually be done by writing to the debtor to request information about their income, including employment, and outgoings and any other relevant information.”

The council can then decide what further action to take, whether it is passing the liability order to an enforcement agency, deducting the payments from wages or benefits, or even issuing bankruptcy procedures.

Council tax reduction is available to some people who are on a low income or claim benefits and it replaced council tax benefit in 2013.

In Wigan, 27,878 people - 20 per cent of tax-payers - receive reductions of between 2p and £47.14 per week.