Council owed £38m in unpaid tax bills

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Residents in affluent Sheffield areas owe the highest individual debts in unpaid council tax – with one householder’s bill totalling more than £14,000.

The Broomhill resident owes the largest amount to Sheffield Council, followed by a resident in Dore and Totley who owed £12,000, but had gone bankrupt.

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Other residents in Stannington, Ecclesall and Broomhill had debts of more than £11,000, which date back up to seven years.

The figures, revealed as part of The Star’s Your Right to Know campaign, show areas which have the most money outstanding collectively include Central, Burngreave, Manor Castle and Darnall wards, where between £2 million and £3m has still not been paid.

Sheffield Council was criticised after figures showed it failed to collect £13m in council tax last year – although chiefs insisted they are taking more action than ever and arrears have been reduced.

In total, there is more than £38m outstanding.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, who is the Liberal Democrat MP for Sheffield Hallam, told The Star the council needed to act to recover the money.

He said: “Just think how many libraries we could fund or streets that could be gritted in the winter if the council improved its collection rates.

“The majority of taxpayers who play by the rules and pay their bills just want fairness.

“It’s about time taxpayers in Sheffield got a fair deal.”

All the top 100 debts – which relate to residents across the city – are subject to recovery efforts, including bailiff action and money being deducted from benefits, while in some cases the sale of properties is forced.

The figures show the Sheffield council wards with the highest collective bills tend to be those with the highest levels of deprivation.

Coun Ben Curran, Sheffield Council’s cabinet member for finance, said the highest debts could relate to landlords with several properties and other councils would be owed similar amounts.

He said the council made a distinction between people who would not pay and those who could not pay because they were on low incomes.

Coun Curran said: “If people don’t pay their bills when they can the council will use the full weight of the process to recover the money. But people who can’t pay we do come to arrangements with.”

He added: “We could have taken a view to write debts off but that would send the wrong message to other taxpayers.

“If you have a debt then it needs to be paid.”