Councils ‘miss’ £530 million

Local government failed to collect £530 million in taxes over the last year

Councils across England, Scotland and Wales failed to collect £530 million in taxes, a new investigation has found.

A Freedom of Information request put in by the BBC found that between 2009-10, local government failed to collect council tax despite facing massive cuts from central government.

The local authorities that had the most amount in uncollected council tax in the last financial year were those which covered cities with large populations, such as Glasgow, Birmingham and Liverpool.

In Glasgow alone, the council failed to collect £17 million.

Although collection rates are often above 98%, it appears that millions of pounds are still going unpaid and uncollected each year.

Figures from 408 local authorities obtained by the BBC show a massive backlog of about £2.5bn in unpaid council tax between 1993 and 2010.

Reasons for the failings blame administrative errors and the shifting population within inner cities.

‘There’s a large population moving in and out all the time,’ says Tony Travers, a local government expert at the London School of Economics ‘At the last census in 2001 it proved difficult to even find all the households in some local authorities, so it’s not surprising councils would have a problem.’

Councils, however, insist that they are continuing to pursue these debts and will eventually recover most of them.

Baroness Margaret Eaton, chairman of the Local Government Association (LGA), which represents local authorities in England and Wales, believes councils have an excellent record.

‘Councils in England collect council tax from more than 20 million properties every year,’ she says. ‘The amount that is uncollected is a tiny proportion of council tax income.’

These figures, although alarming, do represent a small number of people. Is it right to blame the council for failing to collect the taxes? Or should we be blaming the people failing to pay? What do you think?

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