Millions of pounds in unpaid council tax is owed by Hyndburn residents and businesses, according to new figures from a national debt charity.
More than £5.5 million is owed in unpaid council tax up to March 31 this year, according to the Money Advice Trust (MAT) – the equivalent to an average of £152 per dwelling. The figure, which includes business rates, has also jumped around £900,000 in the last 12 months from £4.6 million in March 2014.
Coun Gareth Molineux, cabinet member for resources, has advised residents struggling to pay the bills to contact the council and other support organisations.
He said: “The majority of our residents always pay their council tax on time and in full each year. The £5.549 million in total unpaid council tax relates to council tax that is still actively being recovered for the financial years back to 2009.
“However, as some people fall into debt at some point in their lives, we aim to make affordable payment plans to help them, whilst maximising the collection of council tax to safeguard our services for all residents of the borough.
“We are currently reviewing our council tax and non domestic rates collection and recovery policy to ensure that we operate a firm but fair approach, as we are committed to maximising the income available for local services and residents.”
Conservative councillor Peter Britcliffe said the figures are ‘absolutely shocking’ and other authorities that benefit from council tax will also be affected.
He said: “Most residents do pay council tax but in fact most residents are paying for the ones who don’t. These are absolutely shocking figures and I’m sure that people will be as appalled as I am. If this was collected in today you could almost halve council tax for everybody for the next year. Other authorities like Lancashire County Council, the police and fire authority will also be affected as precepts should also go to them.”
A total of 142 calls were made from Hyndburn last year to National Debtline, and Joanna Elson OBE, chief executive of the MAT which runs National Debtline, said they are ‘concerned’ that many others in the borough are ‘struggling alone’.
She said: “We would like to see local authorities do everything they can to help residents who are falling behind to seek the free advice that can turn their lives around.”