Sheffield council owed £30million

Liberal Democrats leader Nick Clegg
Liberal Democrats leader Nick Clegg
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Sheffield Council ended last year with almost £30 million in uncollected debts from its income streams, The Star can reveal.

City leaders had a budget black hole of £29,541,565 in unpaid council tax, business rates, housing rents, former tenant arrears, adult service care fees and sundry debts in September 2013.

Figures released under The Star’s Your Right to Know campaign also showed the council overpaid benefits of £2,170,007.

The largest proportion of cash the authority failed to claw back was more than £11 million in council tax.

Unpaid business rates accounted for £6,340,315 and the amount of outstanding housing rent was £5,381,992.

The figures do not take into account uncollected commercial rents or parking charges, which are both managed and collected by other bodies.

A spokesman for Sheffield Council said: “Our aim is to collect as much council tax for a particular year within that actual year but we also take a long term view for unpaid council tax.

“We try to be supportive of taxpayers’ ability to pay but we are determined to collect it, with 99 per cent eventually being collected.

“Our collection rate for business rates is consistently above 97 per cent each financial year, with overall collection also reaching at least 99 per cent.

“Most people in Sheffield pay their council tax and their business rates within the year.

He added: “We recognise that as a result of the Government’s welfare reforms some of the most vulnerable households in the city are struggling financially so we would urge anyone experiencing difficulties to contact us as soon as possible so we can make arrangements.”

The news is likely to anger campaigners fighting to save 16 of the city’s libraries which are threatened with closure.

The move would save £1.6million - just a fraction of the bill.

Sheffield Hallam MP and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg accused the ruling Labour group of ‘taking their eye off the finances’ and added the city’s libraries could be saved if the outstanding council tax was collected.

In Numbers:

Uncollected council tax at September 2013 - £11,014,038

Outstanding business rates at September 2013 - £6,340,315

Outstanding housing rents at September 2013 - £5,381,992

Outstanding former rent arrears at the end of September 2013 - £4,509,640

Benefit overpayments at the end of September 2013 - £2,170,007

Outstanding adult care fees at the end of September 2013 - £335,000