£26m cost of unpaid council tax bills

Sheffield Town Hall
Sheffield Town Hall

SHEFFIELD Council has failed to collect more than £26.5 million in council tax over the past 12 years, exclusive figures obtained by The Star reveal.

The total figure - which includes more than £16.5 million outstanding from the past three years alone - is more than half of what the council has said it needs to cut from the budget in the next financial year.

The yearly annual totals still owed show the amounts have been increasing gradually over the past decade.

A total of £7,392,722 remains unpaid from 2010/11, £5,219,341 from 2009/10 and £2,784,409 from 2007/08.

And the council is still owed money from more than a decade ago - £558,880 from 2001/02, £522,627 from 2000/01 and £445,720 from 1999/00.

The result is £26,520,811 in uncollected council tax from the last 12 years.

An extra 225 nurses in hospitals for the next five years or an extra 200 teachers in city schools could be funded by the total.

The disclosure comes as Sheffield braces itself for around £50 million of cuts, with up to 690 jobs set to go at the council.

The Star has revealed the figures as part of its new Right to Know campaign - aimed at throwing a focus on how public bodies spend your money.

Our investigations will look at reports and facts that would not normally see the light of day.

National taxation pressure group the Taxpayers’ Alliance has expressed concern that honest taxpaying citizens will end up footing the bill for unpaid council tax.

Campaign manager Robert Oxley said: “Everyone needs to pay their fair share, and councils need to collect the money owed so taxpayers don’t pick up the bill. 

“But, at the same time, it isn’t surprising the amount of uncollected council tax has risen so sharply when council tax has nearly doubled across the country over the last decade. 

“Councils should do everything possible to make it easier for people to pay their council tax and to help those who are struggling - then ensure those wilfully refusing to cough up.”

Eugene Walker, Sheffield Council’s director of finance, insisted that over the last 10 years 99 per cent of tax has been collected.

He added: “The collection of council tax is a matter which we take seriously and we will do all we can to chase those taxpayers who do not pay or choose to pay late.

“Over the last 10 years we have successfully collected 99 per cent of tax - in the region of £1.86 billion - and we will continue to keep our collection rates high.

“However there will be people who refuse to pay, and we employ a range of measures to seek recovery including direct deductions from salaries and benefits and the use of bailiffs.

“As a last resort, we may apply to court for imprisonment of a defaulter. In the last few months, city magistrates have handed out jail sentences to two people who haven’t paid their council tax. “However there will be people who genuinely have difficulties in paying their council tax.”

Martin Mayer, chair of the Sheffield Anti Cuts Alliance, added: “I think this is a vitally important piece of information which displays even on a local scale the cavalier approach to tax collection and the rush to balance budgets by cutting vital services instead.”

Anyone with difficulties should contact the Council Tax Section on 0114 273 6777 or in person at First Point, Union Stree.t

They will be told if they are eligible for benefits to help reduce their bill or if an arrangement can be made to spread payments over a longer period.

n Campaign: Pages 6 and 7

n £7,392,722 is still uncollected from the financial year 2010/11

n £5,219,341 from 2009/10

n £3,984,943 from 2008/09

n £2,784,409 from 2007/08

n £2,068,941 from 2006/07

n £1,390,923 from 2005/06

n £947,734 from 2004/05

n £675,722 from 2003/04

n £528,849 from 2002/03

n £558,880 from 2001/02

n £522,627 from 2000/01

n £445,720 from 1999/00