Friday, 31 May 2013

Cornwall's £12 million council tax arrears

A government minister has pointed out that Cornwall Council has missed out on £12 million through non-collected council tax. And he's right to say that every pound not collected is a pound that cannot be spent on local services.

That is why Cornwall Council does so much to make sure that we collect as much of the council tax and business rates that are owed to us as possible.

Anyone with a passing interest in Cornwall politics will know that I have been in that position myself. I know that Cornwall Council does not give up on getting the money it is owed.

Cornwall has one of the best collection rates in the region - and it has been getting better year on year. We collect more than 97.5% of the council tax owed to us and the overall debt is proportionately less than half the average in the region. But Brandon Lewis is right that the uncollected amount adds up to around £12 million over the past few years.

But while the council doesn't give up on money owed lightly, there are some cases where it is impossible to collect. And there are more such cases out there as changes to the welfare system bite. These include the cut in the maximum level of council tax support from 100% to 75%. So now everybody has to pay at least something. And whilst there is additional support available in exceptional cases, this does not cover the entire amount owed.

That decision was taken by the last administration at Cornwall Council and I opposed the change. But we may not change it mid-year and I'm now tasked with enforcing it. What the council will be doing is helping people to put together a payment plan that they can afford but which ensures that the council gets the money we are owed.

So if you owe council tax, please don't think that the authority will give up on the debt. We can't afford to do so. What we can do is try to be as reasonable as possible in helping you pay, but we need to speak to you in order to do so.


Phil said...

Do I detect a change of tone in this blog?

Anyone asked the government how much of their tax is uncollected or avoided? Does Brandon Lewis know about stones and glasshouses?

Alex Folkes said...

I was trying to point out that, whilst £12m is a lot of money, Cornwall actually has a pretty good collection record. The biggest threat to that record is the change in welfare rules - including the change in council tax benefit