Wirral Council aims to recover more than £15m in debt it is owed by residents and businesses.
According to the council’s unaudited accounts for 2022-23, it is owed £15.6m from council tax and rates from businesses. This is a reduction of nearly £400,000 from 2021 when debts were more than £16m but an increase of £6m compared to 2019.
The latest figures show £4.759m of the debt is less than one year old and nearly half is from the last two years. More than £2.1m has been owed for more than five years, an increase compared to the previous year.
In 2022-23, Wirral collected £95.5m in council tax, a rate of 97.2% while also writing off £290,000 of council tax and £446,000 of business rates it deemed non-collectable.
Council tax is a tax on households decided by local authorities across the UK with a new level set every year. It is based on the estimated value of a house as well as the number of people living in it.
Council tax bands determine how much a person pays and the money generated may go towards funding things like council services, different building works, and investments by local authorities.
The rate of council tax increased for the 2023-24 year by nearly 5% with 2% going towards funding adult social care while the other 2.99% went towards funding services. The amount people pay now ranges from £1,438 to £4,316.
A Wirral Council spokesperson said, “The council utilises all appropriate available recovery tools to ensure that local taxation debts are collected in accordance with the council’s policies.
“The council aims to recover all monies due to the council when it is appropriate to do so.” The council also said it has no plans to implement a blanket write off for long standing debts over five years.
Leader of the council’s Conservative group Cllr Jeff Green said he would be raising the issue of getting the money back with the council’s finance department and he had previously had concerns about past debts being written off in the council.
He said, “That has always been a concern of mine and I have always sought assurance that we are taking the utmost measures to recover that money.
“It is important at a time when the council is cash limited and the council, due to the decisions of previous administrations, had to go to the government for a bailout.
“If there is money the council is correctly owed, all of us I believe think the council do all it can to collect that money. Certainly progress is being made but it is certainly not enough.”
Cllr Green said there was “a desperately sad irony” when this money could have gone towards different services, adding: “Every other tax payer in Wirral is having to subsidise this appalling level of non-collection.”
He added, “I think it’s encouraging that the council is now approaching this issue with seriousness. I of course want to know what more can be done to protect all the other council tax payers, protect them for those who refuse to pay.”
Wirral received £789,483 in 2023 from the government to provide additional support for those struggling to pay their council tax bill. This funding will allow Wirral Council to deliver additional support to over 10,000 households already receiving council tax support.
Wirral isn’t the only nearby authority looking to recover council tax debt. In July, Liverpool announced it would begin taking legal action to get nearly £7m back out of a total £185m owed.
To apply for council tax support, click here