Councillor Wendy Thompson, Conservative leader on the Labour-controlled Wolverhampton council, said: “I find this absolutely shocking. It is a huge amount of money – and just think of what could have been done with it. This is not a political issue because it is the responsibility of everyone to pay their council tax. None of us like doing it but if you avoid that responsibility you are taking much-needed services away.
Councillor Thompson said some of the uncollected sums could be accounted for by death and continued: “I realise that there is going to be a proportion of cases where recovery is impossible but there is no good trying to get more grants in from the Government when such an eye-watering amount of money is being left unpaid. I shall be asking questions to find out how this has happened.”
The amount involved has soared over the last five years. Just £324,000 worth of council tax was owed in 2009/10 but the total has risen sharply each year since. Meanwhile almost £3m owed in council tax and over £6.8m business rates were written off by Wolverhampton council between 2009 and 2014.
The latter figure was influenced by the number of empty shops. Annual unpaid council tax topped £1m in 2013/14 but had soared to £3m two years later and rocketed to £4.9m in 2016/17, figures released under a Freedom of Information request reveal.
The number of court summonses to recover council tax owed to the local authority has not kept pace with the rise. Just over 22,000 were issued in 2016/17, the lowest number since 2013.
Source: Express & Star