Stafford Council writes off business tax debts worth more than £138,000

13th March 2017

Stafford Borough Council has written off £138,000 worth of business and tax debts worth more during the 2016/17 financial year. Business debts totalling more than £110,000 have been written off by Stafford Borough Council. A further £27,829 in council tax debts was also written off by the borough council’s cabinet at its Thursday meeting according to the Staffordshire newsletter.

Despite the efforts of council staff and bailiffs to collect the cash, they were unable to trace the debtors and no further action could be taken, a cabinet report said. Council leader Patrick Farrington, speaking at Thursday’s meeting, said: “I propose the items detailed be written off.” The debtors were not named in the public report, but there were 10 business rate cases, totalling £110,584.85, and 11 council tax cases. In 2015/16 business rate debts totalling £257,523.03 and council tax debts totalling £202,499.58 were written off by the borough council.

A borough council spokesman said: “We want to do everything we can to help businesses succeed in our borough and we will offer support and advice for those who come to us because they are struggling financially. But we also have a duty to ensure that all money due to the public purse is paid to us because this helps fund the services we provide to our community. Each year we collect around 99 per cent of all the money that is due. Unfortunately there is a small amount that goes unpaid and despite every effort to recover this, sometimes, we can’t and that is why we reluctantly take the decision to write it off.

“But we will continue to act on any information that would lead us to recover this debt at any time in the future. I would urge anyone who is finding it difficult to pay either their council tax or business rates to contact us immediately as the longer you bury your head in the sand the more difficult it becomes to help.”

The report said: “The cost of collecting the debts has been considered as part of the decision to put them forward for write off. If further information does come forward about the whereabouts of any of the individual debtors the council will pursue recovery action. The normal course of action has been pursued; namely bills, reminders and final notices issued and, where appropriate, summonses issued, liability orders obtained and passed to bailiffs for collection and trace.

“Trace procedures have been followed, which include checking with our internal council systems, using a local authority data sharing system to check for forwarding addresses at other local authorities, visits to the last known address by the council’s property inspector and use of external tracing agents.Despite these best efforts of council tax and business rates staff, and/or baliffs, the debtors cannot be traced and no further action can be taken.”