CamdenNewJournal

The independent London newspaper

Town Hall forced to chase its own councillors for unpaid tax bills

Nine local politicians were sent reminders to pay up

08 August, 2019 — By Richard Osley

Camden Council’s 5PS headquarters

THE Town Hall has sent reminder letters over unpaid council tax to nine of its own councillors in the past two years.

The local politicians, who have not been named under confidentiality rules, are tasked with scrutinising and setting Camden’s budget each year, including the rate of tax which residents have to pay.

They were not taken to court after settling how much they owed with a late payment, data released by the council under the Freedom of Information Act reveals.

As a whole Camden sent out more than 33,000 reminder letters by post in the past year, with around 15,000 escalating to court summons.

This means that 10 per cent of all people expected to pay council tax in Camden were asked to attend court. In total, the council was owed £5.1million in unpaid council tax over the past year.

Camden is not naming the councillors who needed to be mailed reminders over missing council tax payers because they did not attend court.

The ruling Labour group at the Town Hall raised council tax by 4 per cent after a budget-setting meeting in February.

That session saw political rivals blame each other’s parties for the increased bills: Labour said it had to act to cover cuts ordered by the Conservative government, while local Tories said council tax could actually have been reduced with better efficiency at the Town Hall.

The release of figures and statistics around how council tax is demanded and collected in the borough comes with Camden looking to change the way the system operates.

Throughout the summer it is running a public consultation survey on its Council Tax Reduction Scheme which council chiefs say is “complex, out of date and has high administration costs”.

Each year, the council spends £25million on this scheme trying to help those struggling to pay. Some who are out of work get reduced bills, while the borough’s poorest residents – around 10,000 people – are made exempt from the bills altogether.

It has been argued that the cost of chasing money from people who simply do not have it just adds to the hole in the Town Hall accounts.

Under a revamped scheme, people earning less than £84 per week before tax could be entitled to a full exemp­tion. Those earning more than £379.81 per week before tax, however, would not receive any reduction unless they have children, are disabled or are a carer for a disabled resident.

No councillors are totally exempt from paying council tax.

Camden’s finance chief Richard Olszewski is consulting on Camden’s relief scheme

Town Hall finance chief Councillor Richard Olszewski said: “We want to be as fair as possible and keep up the maximum investment in this scheme that we can afford. We do not want our most hard-up residents to pay a further price for austerity.”

Camden’s consultation runs until September 15.

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