Leeds’s court fight over unpaid council tax

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Thousands of people have been taken to court in a bid to chase millions of pounds in unpaid council tax.

Magistrates were asked to send out more than 90,200 liability orders to demand full payments of unpaid council tax debts in Leeds over the last three years.

More than 121,190 summ-onses have been sent on behalf of Leeds City Council to residents in that period – including 36,100 during this financial 
year.

But campaigners fear that more people will be hauled before the courts as welfare reform changes continue to bite. The city’s outstanding unpaid council tax bill is over £16m – a sum that has accumulated since 2011. Nearly £8.2m in unpaid tax is currently outstanding so far this financial year.

Leader of Leeds City Council councillor Keith Wakefield said: “We’re already seeing an increase in rent and council tax arrears for some people as a result of welfare reform.

“Our approach has and will continue to be around supporting people who are genuinely struggling to pay.

“By coming to us early, we can put in place arrangements to allow people to continue to pay without causing their financial situation to worsen.”

The authority was forced to write-off nearly £1.4m in unpaid council tax debt dating back to the previous financial year.

Courts can give the council the power to deduct money straight from people’s wages or benefits until their debt has been cleared.

Coun Wakefield added: “Clearly it’s in everyone’s interest for us to collect as much council tax as possible.”

The YEP revealed earlier this year that council bosses were forced to send bailiffs out 21,060 times to collect council tax debts over the last financial year.

Bailiffs have received 89,650 cases in an effort to retrieve unpaid council taxes since 2009.

More residents, who are out of work but of working age, are having to pay for their council tax under the new Council Tax Support Scheme.

The authority has collected nearly £130m so far this financial year in council tax payments across the city.

Three people have already been served with bankruptcy petitions during this financial year.

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