Lichfield District Council owed £2.1 million in council tax
Lichfield District Council is owed £2.1 million in council tax – but councillors deny a trend is forming with debtors failing to pay – even though arrears have grown by 30 per cent in three years.
Despite the huge debt, the council’s council tax fund is actually operating with a surplus of £46,215 – which will be added to next year’s budget.
The council’s finance boss, Councillor Rob Strachan, explained that half of the money owed was deemed ‘low risk’, due to debtors engaging with council tax support services.
But Councillor Iain Eadie, questioned if residents were finding it increasingly difficult to pay rising council tax bills at a cabinet meeting on Thursday (June 14).
He said: “Is there an issue with people being unable to pay? Collection has fallen since 2016, 98.79 per cent, then 97.49 per cent, 97.47 per cent, 97.19 per cent. That is a falling trend.”
Councillor Strachan replied: “I don’t think there’s much of a change in broad terms. The ability to pay council tax is in a toughening financial situation. However, every letter that goes out has details of how they can access the council tax support services on it.
“I’m not entirely sure whether there is a single underlying factor.”
Council tax arrears have grown in Lichfield by quite a large sum since 2016. From £1,616,732, to £2,112,706 last year. That’s an increase of 30.6 per cent.
Councillor Andrew Smith, cabinet member for customer service, explained the current support system is being reviewed by all council tax partners in the county, including the police, fire service and county council who all rely on council tax contributions.
Councillor Smith added: “We are working with those other joint partners reviewing that system.”
Councillor Strachan said: “It’s not been possible to review that already as we had to wait for Universal Credit to roll out across the county.”
Cllr Eadie raised concerns that a review of the system might not yield a result that suits the district council or its constituents.
He said: “If we look at any reviewed system and find it to be at the detriment to our residents, are we prepared to design our own system?”
Councillor Smith replied: “We can tweak it so it can reach our demographic.”
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