County misses out on �9.9m of council tax

AUTHORITIES in Suffolk failed to collect an “unacceptable” �9.9million in council tax last year, new figures reveal.

Research from the GMB general workers’ union shows that the county’s seven district and borough councils missed out on a combined �9,927,000 in council tax and non-domestic rates during 2009-10.

Union leaders have now called for a change in the way the taxes are gathered after the national figures showed that more than �1billion went uncollected.

According to the GMB, Ipswich Borough Council had the biggest shortfall in Suffolk, missing out on �2,344,000, while Waveney District Council was down �2,136,000 – a figure it disputes.

A spokesman for Waveney District Council said: “The reported figures for Waveney are inaccurate. However we are fully committed to ensuring all council tax is collected and our enforcement team continues to deliver improved figures which give out a clear signal to those who seek to defraud the system.”

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Ipswich Borough Council said its collection problems were more significant than in other parts of the county due to the “urban” nature of the area.

A spokesman said: “As an urban authority we face greater problems over collection than rural areas, but we owe it to all council tax payers to maintain our policy of pursuing, wherever possible non-payment of tax.”

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The GMB report shows that in 2009-10 Suffolk Coastal was down �1,515,000, St Edmundsbury failed to collect �1,164,000, Mid Suffolk fell short by �967,000, Forest Heath could not track down �945,000 and �856,000 went uncollected in the Babergh district

Paul Hayes, GMB regional secretary for the eastern region, said that such a level of uncollected taxes could not be accepted at a time when deficits in public finances were giving rise to cuts in public services and job losses at a time of high unemployment.

He said: “GMB has called for the rules to be revamped to make non-payment of what amounts to a property tax almost impossible.

“For example landlords are not allowed to collect council tax from tenants when they pay rent.

“This means that short term tenants can evade paying council taxes until they have left the property and make it difficult for councils to track them down.”

He said that in previous years councillors had dismissed the annual analysis by GMB and instead claimed to be doing very well.

He added: “This is not good enough. Instead they should join GMB in asking parliament to change the rules to make non-payment virtually impossible.The poorest in our society and those on benefits have their local taxes paid by central government. So it is not a question of can’t pay rather than won’t pay.”

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