Uttlesford District Council owed £2.5million in tax arrears

Uttlesford District Council headquarters on London Road, Saffron Walden.

Uttlesford District Council headquarters on London Road, Saffron Walden. - Credit: Archant

Uttlesford District Council is owed £2.5million in council tax arrears, new figures from the Money Advice Trust have revealed.

Despite this sum, the area’s debts are one of the lowest in the country, with the average local authority owed £8.1m in outstanding tax payments since 1993.

In fact, Braintree District Council is owed £3.4m, an average of £54 per household, and 165 calls were made from the area last year to the National Debtline; an advice service provided by the Money Advice Trust.

In comparison, just 87 calls were made to the same advice line from Uttlesford in 2014.

A spokesperson for Uttlesford District Council said: “We work hard to help anyone who is struggling with their council tax payments, and have a robust recovery process in place to help residents to reduce the debt. In some cases we offer an Exceptional Hardship Fund for those who are in financial difficulties due to unforeseen circumstances, such as illness.

“We would encourage anyone who is struggling to pay their council tax to contact us as soon as possible so that we can check they are getting all the help and support they are entitled to.”

Despite the district’s low debt figures, council tax arrears have risen by £51,000 since last year.

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The council, however, believes this is inevitable because figures constantly shift depending on changes in valuation bands and discount allowances, as well as the possibility that more people begin to withhold council tax payments.

Nevertheless, its efforts to collect council tax on-time from paying residents have been ranked as the best in Essex, with a rate of 98.9 per cent last year worth £50m; a figure which also exceeded the budgeting predictions of 98 per cent.

The council has since gone on to beat this figure for 2015 with a collection rate of 99.4 per cent.

This means more funding for the area, with Uttlesford District Council keeping 11 per cent for its own community, and 75 per cent going to Essex County Council for highway, emergency services and social care improvements.

INFORMATION: If you need to contact the National Debtline, which offers free, independent and confidential advice, visit www.nationaldebtline.org or call 0808 808 4000. Lines are open Monday to Friday 9am to 9pm and Saturday 9.30am to 1pm.