West Suffolk: Tax and rates worth hundreds of thousands to be written off

West Suffolk House in Bury which is home to St Edmundsbury Borough Council

West Suffolk House in Bury which is home to St Edmundsbury Borough Council - Credit: Archant

NEARLY £220,000 of business rates and council tax is set to be written off by a west Suffolk council.

Bosses at St Edmundsbury Borough Council claim the move comes after rigorous attempts to collect the cash and said many outstanding debts were a result of businesses going into liquidation.

They insisted that all outstanding amounts that are due to people dodging payment will be recorded and the money pursued should the person be located.

According to a report going to cabinet next Wednesday, three accounts for council tax, totalling £9,911 and 27 accounts of business rates totalling £208,098 are to be considered for writing off.

Dave Ray, portfolio holder for performance and resources said: “We have strict procedures, starting off with the original demand letter and then reminders etc.

“We go through a whole procedure to try and collect the debts that are owing to us, whether they are business rates, council tax or sundry debts, and it is largely successful.”

He added: “Although we collect 98% to 99% of what people owe us, you do get to a stage with some debts where you realise you’re not going to be able collect them - maybe because the person has died, gone into liquidation or just disappeared and we can’t trace them. At that stage we write them off and keep a record of them and if the person suddenly turns up again we can write them back on again and try and pursue them.”

Most Read

The report states that the council has appointed a firm of bailiffs to assist in the collection of business rates and council tax and also has online tracing facilities. Debts stretch back to before 2005.

The biggest sums to be written off in business rates all come from the recession years, with £65,938 to be written off from 2009/10 and another £40,323 to be written off in 2012/2013.

Mr Ray said: “If we’re in economic difficult times then life for small businesses can be tricky and we would expect more businesses to go under in recessions than when times are better. So, sadly, I guess we must expect that we’re going to have a similar number of businesses going into liquidation and we’ll have to write off their debts too.”

A spokeswoman for St Edmundsbury said: “Our target is to collect 100% of Council Tax and business rates, and as of February 28 2013 we have collected 97.87% Council Tax and 97.65% business rates. We work with businesses and individuals who tell us they are experiencing difficulties, and with support organisations that can provide them with practical advice. We also use all the recovery avenues available through legislation.”