Council take 17 residents to court each day

At least 17 people are taken to court each day in East Dunbartonshire for failing to pay their council tax, the Herald can exclusively reveal.

Figures, obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, found that 25,406 summary warrants were issued by the council over the last four years.

The total amount of debt pursued by the council in that time period has been almost £17 million, with just over £10m recovered.

However, the figures show that the cost of unpaid tax has left a black hole of £6.867m in the local authority budget.

Though the council generally collect around 96 per cent of the council tax due, officials say every effort will be made to recover the unpaid debt.

Rhondda Geekie, leader
of East Dunbartonshire 
Council, said: “As a council we are duty-bound to maximise the revenue from council tax collection.

“Council tax is an important income source for councils and we recognise the need to pursue those people who can but don’t pay.

“We set ourselves very high targets for collection and it’s pleasing that we have performed so well against the national average and we will continue our efforts in this area.

“The council will engage with any resident who has 
arrears and is willing to enter into an acceptable arrangement to repay the debt.”

Money advice experts have warned that mounting tax debts will spiral out of control if a repayment plan is not established quickly.

Catherine Bradley, manager at the East Dunbartonshire branch of Citizen’s Advice Scotland, said: “We urge people who are struggling with any debt to come see us right away as the greater the debt and longer it goes on then the worse it is going to be.

“Our money advice workers will be able to arrange a repayment plan which balances the outstanding debt with the ongoing liability.

“There are a lot of people who still don’t realise that you can apply for council tax benefit or the 25 per cent reduction if you’re a single adult living in a property.”

She added: “We seen instances in the past where some people had not paid any council tax in several years and in the end some owed as much as £12,000.

“These cases don’t happen much any more, since the local authority started to take a much tougher line and applied some long-overdue diligence.

“I can’t fault their stance because at the end of the day people have to pay council tax.”

Anyone struggling with council tax debt can contact the EDC tax team on 0300 1234510 or Citizen’s Advice on 0141 775 3220.