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£78m of Welsh Council Tax Not Collected

Welsh Authorities, already struggling for cash, discovered they were owed more than £78m in unpaid council tax bills.

The official figures showed that only 96.4% of the total council tax levy for wales was collected last year which sent the outstanding bill sky rocketing by more than £5m. With many councils already facing tightening budgets and being forced to make service cuts, criticism was strong for allowing the figures to become so high.

Susie Squire of Taxpayers’ Alliance said, “councils must do more to recover these tax debts and ensure that law-abiding taxpayers do not have to pay more to make up the difference. These debts will no doubt become a growing problem as ordinary people struggle under a heavy tax burden during the recession.”

As the assembly Government released the figures, Blaenau Gwent was highlighted as having the worst collection figures out of all 22 local authorities in Wales. Blaenau Gwent only recovered 94.5%of its levy, compared to Pembrokeshire which had the highest collection rate of 98.3%.

An overall drop in the collection rate of 0.2% between 2007/08 and 2008/09 was the first fall in nearly a decade.

A spokeswoman for the Welsh Local Government Agency (WLGA) said the rate was satisfactory in the context of a recession.

She said: “Given the economic circumstances that have developed over the last year, council tax collection rates have held up relatively well.”

But she added: “Councils do recognise that they have a duty to all taxpayers to ensure that those who should pay taxes do. They know it is a very difficult time for their communities and, along with the WLGA, have been working closely with the Assembly Government and Citizens Advice Bureau to develop a good practice guide for council tax collection during the recession.”

It is thought that utilising debt collection agencies to help with debt recovery could help the welsh authorities to recover a large portion of the outstanding debt.