Thanet council tax debt hits £23.2m

3rd August 2023

A Freedom of Information request to Thanet District Council has revealed the total value of unpaid council tax debt owed in the district up to the end of the 2022-2023 financial year is a £23,202,000.

The figure has built up over the past 30 years, since the charge was first introduced, and includes £2 million related to court summons fees. Of the £23.2million the bulk – 71%- is owed as Kent County Council’s share of the precept. Just below £ 3 million is owed to Thanet council.

A statement issued by Thanet District Council said “The quoted sum of £23.202m is a cumulative historic figure and reflects the total outstanding amount for the past 30 years – since 1993. Of this sum, £2m relates to court summons fees.”

Figures released under the same request show the debt has increased by almost nine million pounds since pre-pandemic levels in 2017-18, when it stood at £14,488,000.

A Thanet council spokesperson said “The amount specifically owed to Thanet District Council is £2.986m. The remainder is owed to Kent County Council (71%), Kent Police (11%) Kent Fire (4%) and will be repaid directly from arrears payments received.”

“There is no obligation upon Thanet District Council to pay the amounts owed to the different organisations in advance of receiving payments from customers.

“The council’s ongoing funding arrangements are not impacted by this.Thanet District Council is the collection agency with responsibility for billing and collection on behalf of a number of agencies including the county council.”

“In any cases where we identify that a customer is vulnerable we instruct the bailiffs to stop pursuing the debt. We do not record this data because decisions are taken on a case-by-case basis and are not recorded on our Council Tax system.”

District councillor John Worrow (Thanet Independents) said “I have recently received a large volume of emails from residents finding it difficult to pay their council tax, some of whom have expressed their anger over council taxpayers money being  wasted on poorly thought-out projects and pay-offs to former council officers.”

“Recently as candidates for Margate’s Garlinge ward, my colleague John Dennis and I, were campaigning for lower council tax,  and now having been elected with 58% of the vote we feel duty bound to draw attention to the difficulty that many residents are having paying their council tax bills.”

“I was shocked, but not surprised, after learning that the total value of unpaid debt owed in the district is £23,202,000 up to the end of 2022-2023. The problem in Thanet and throughout Kent as whole, is that the council tax is far too high. It wouldn’t be so bad if residents money were being spent on things the community needs, instead of on vanity projects, and pay-offs to former employees.”

“As a former chair of the council’s Governance & Audit Committee, I feel that Sir Keir Starmer’s pledge to freeze council tax (Guardian 30th march 2023) is a step in the right direction. But for this to happen Thanet council needs be run properly.  This can be achieved without cutting frontline services if councillors stop paying out hundred of thousands of pounds on former council officers.”

“We are in a cost of living crisis like no other, so now is the time for the political parties in Thanet to start working together and put an end to the council’s “pay-off” culture, which began with the very questionable £327,000 council tax funded pay-off to the council’s former chief executive. Thanet’s administration needs to take alternative legal advice, and when it’s time to set the council’s budget, they need to freeze, or better still, lower the council tax.”