Council tax collection costs shock

HUGE discrepancies in the amount it costs different local authorities in Suffolk to collect council tax can be revealed today - amid claims they could be wasting £2m of taxpayers cash a year.

HUGE discrepancies in the amount it costs different local authorities in Suffolk to collect council tax can be revealed today - amid claims they could be wasting £2m of taxpayers cash a year.

In the Waveney area it costs £7 per household to collect the community charge, while in Ipswich it is more than three times as much at £22, figures given to the EADT show.

And if every authority could lower what it pays to the same level as Waveney, it has been calculated that this could save £2.2m across the county in a year.

Waveney council said it kept the amount down by having a small team of officers, but Ipswich last night questioned whether its counterparts had included all the costs they incur so the data could be comparable.


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Borough and district councils collect the rate on behalf of themselves, the county council, Suffolk Police Authority and the town or parish councils.

But Peter Van Geersdaele, member of the Protest Against Council Tax Suffolk (PACTS) committee, said: “Looking at this, one could suggest that if all the council tax was taken from one place rather than seven then there could be savings. All the different district and borough councils have got their different rules and regulations too. This would bring the whole county onto a level playing field.”

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Reg Hartles, chairman of PACTS, added: “When the cost of raising the tax is valued per taxpaying household, there is a considerable variation among district and borough councils.

“We question why is there such variation in these costs, and could not savings be made if one single body - namely the county council, collected the tax?”

Simon Attwood, head of revenues at Ipswich, said: “We have given all the costs that the service area at Ipswich Borough Council incurs. This includes all the re-charges from other departments that we receive services from.”

Kevin Hunter, head of revenues and benefits at Mid Suffolk, said: “It is too difficult to make a comparison like for like as authorities have different structures and different elements in the council tax collections. Ours is towards the lower end, which is good. When we used to have benchmarking we used to be competitive, although the caveat is this like for like comparison.”

Customer service costs, deprivation and people's ability to pay, the number of people receiving benefits and the proportion of exempt properties could impact on the cost of collection, while urban areas have more people moving, leading to greater administrative costs when issuing bills, councils said.

A spokesman for Waveney District Council said the reason for its low rate was a “small, dedicated team of officers” in its council tax department.

John Alexander, strategic director of resources at Forest Heath, added: “We carry out council tax collections in partnership with Breckland District Council, which gives us economies of scale, particularly in IT and management costs. Our costs will further reduce on April 1, 2007, when East Cambridgeshire District Council are joining the partnership.”

A spokesman for the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, which is responsible for council tax, said: “This is entirely for the local authorities to respond to and to put forward initiatives to save money and in a sense help keep council tax down.”

A B C D

Suffolk Coastal £876,890 49,745 £18 £529,800

Mid Suffolk £369,000 38,000 £10 £103,700

Waveney £366,000 52,400 £7 n/a

Babergh £422,530 36,223 £12 £169,500

Ipswich £1,170,540 54,000 £22 £793,800

Forest Heath £254,583 25,376 £10 £77,400

St Edmundsbury £875,520 44,246 £20 £566,800

TOTAL £2.2M

A - Cost of council tax collection

B - Number of households council tax is collected from

C - Average cost per household

D - Amount that could be saved if paying the same as the council with the lowest cost of council tax collection

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