BROMSGROVE residents owe a total of £2.7million in unpaid council tax, according to figures released by The Money Advice Trust.
The organisation claimed the statistic showed residents were struggling to pay their council tax bills, but a council spokesperson hit back, saying the £2.7million figure was an accumulation of cash that had not been paid over the last 16 years.
A spokesperson told The Standard 98.29 per cent of the council tax owed in 2014/15 was collected, with 99 per cent amassed on average by the authority.
Joanna Elson OBE, chief executive of the Money Advice Trust, the charity which runs National Debtline, said: “We are seeing more and more people seek help with council tax arrears – but the fact that Bromsgrove residents owe £2.7million makes us concerned that many more people in the area are struggling alone.”
Despite this, the council spokesperson said they fully supported the message given by the Money Advice Trust, which said those struggling to pay their council tax should seek help as soon as possible.
The spokesperson also said the council worked closely with the voluntary and charitable sector to help people to manage their council tax and she urged anyone having difficulty in making a payment to seek help as soon as they could, either from the council or from voluntary money advice organisations.
She said the authority worked with customers to try to find suitable arrangements which would both repay the debt and also take people’s individual circumstances into account.
“We have a robust process in place for the recovery of any money owed to the council and in the majority of cases over the past 16 years there will be long-standing arrangements in place to reduce the debt.
“On the rare occasion that payment is not forthcoming and arrangements break down, the council has a number of options it can take but these are always seen as a last resort.”
She added options to reduce debts, included paying directly from benefits or earnings, seizing personal possessions, making the person bankrupt or placing an order against a property.
“We do not take these options lightly and will always try to work with the customer first to put a sustainable repayment plan in place.”
Those struggling with debt can get free independent and confidential advice by visiting www.nationaldebtline.org or call freephone 0808 808 4000. The line is open from 9am to 9pm Monday to Friday and between 9.30am and 1pm on Saturdays.