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Council writes off debts worth more than £30,000

Stafford councillors have agreed to write off unpaid council tax and business rates worth more than £30,000.

Stafford Borough Council

Members of Stafford Borough Council’s cabinet also gave the go-ahead for a housing benefit overpayment of £4,213.38 to be written off at their latest meeting on Thursday.

Councillor Ralph Cooke, cabinet member for resources, said: “The council manages the housing benefit scheme on behalf of the Department for Work and Pensions.

"Sometimes a claimant will be paid too much housing benefit, for example when the council doesn’t become aware of a change in circumstances until after benefit has been paid..”

But the authority has been able to recover other housing benefit overpayments totalling 410,783.80 in the nine months up to December 2023, a report to the cabinet said. And its collection rates for council tax and business rates between October and December showed improvement compared to the same period in 2022.

The report said: “Council tax due for the current year amounted to £99.2m and we have collected 83.1 per cent of this within the first three quarters of the year, though is lower than pre-pandemic levels (84.3 per cent in the same period of 2019/20).

This would seem to indicate that we are making progress with our recovery processes but have a little way to go before reaching pre-Covid levels.

“Business rates due for the current year amounts to £50m, of which some 83.9 per cent was collected by the end of December. This compares to 81 per cent collected in the same period last year and 83.4% in 2019-20.

Three council tax debts totalling £15,837.57 and a business rate debt of £14,577.53 were written off by cabinet members after being deemed irrecoverable. Councillor Cooke said: “The amounts are well below the value of bad debt provision, in the expectation that some amounts will not be paid and cannot be recovered.

“The cost of collecting the debt has also been calculated as part of the decision for putting them forward for write off. If we get any further information concerning the whereabouts of any individual debtors, the council will pursue recovery action rigorously and vigorously.”

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