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Edinburgh Writes Off £230k in Unpaid Debt

Just under £230,000 has been written off by Edinburgh City Council as it has been deemed as “unrecoverable.”

IT has been a bitter pill for Council Cheifs to swallow after finally admitting defeat in their debt collection attempts in which they had attempted to recover the outstanding mount by “all possible means of debt recovery.”

Despite recovery efforts dating back to financial year 2009/10 £228,392 remains outstanding.

The figure itself is made up of a variety of council services such as unpaid council tax, business rates and other payments for council services and the debtors themselves consist of both individuals and companies who are considered to not be in a position to make a payment as they are considered to have no monies or assets. The amount has sparked cries of outrage for more effort to be made to recover the outstanding monies from the people or businesses who owe them.

Conservative councillor Alastair Paisley said: “We used to get a list of the irrecoverable debts circulated among councillors, and you could go through them and see that one is because the debtor is in prison, or one is because he is unemployed and has no assets.

“But I used to go down the list and say ‘he’s got several shops, that one’s loaded, and he’s living in a big expensive house’. You sometimes wonder how they decide they are irrecoverable.”

“If a solicitor company took on the debt recovery process on behalf of the council they would say ‘unless you pay this we will take you to the cleaners’. That would help make sure some of these people pay up.”

“We’ve got about £23 million of council tax debt that has still not been collected – any debt collection agency would welcome that business and would work night and day to get that money back. So we need to be trying a lot harder to get this money back.”

Recently released figures have indicated that upwards of 350 people per day are being threatened with court action in Edinburgh for failure to pay council tax with the number of summary warrants issued soared to 95,549 in the year to the end of March 2010, compared to 59,940 two years earlier.

However, city chiefs say a significant sum within the £228,392 will still be returned to the council at the time that any sale of the debtor’s property takes place – so will not be written off indefinitely.

Councillor Phil Wheeler, the city’s finance leader, said: “The council has taken legal steps to ensure that money due to us is paid when individuals sell their properties as an ‘inhibition charging order’ precludes the sale of a property owned by a debtor until the debt is discharged.

“This makes up £182,531 of the debt.

“I appreciate in these difficult financial times we must ensure that all measures are taken to try to recover all debt to the council.”