Queue forms outside court due to unpaid £4.4m of council tax

More than 4,300 residents were summonsed to court for failing to pay a combined council tax bill of nearly £4.4 million.

Thursday, 21st June 2018, 12:00 pm
Updated Thursday, 21st June 2018, 1:23 pm
The queue outside the magistrates court

A queue of people were seen waiting outside Peterborough Magistrates’ Court in Lower Bridge Street on Tuesday due to the summonses.

Cllr David Seaton, cabinet member for resources at Peterborough City Council, said the authority had to be make sure it reclaimed the money in the face of substantial cuts to its government grant.

He said: “We issued a court summons on May 21 to 4,367 residents who had failed to pay a combined council tax bill of nearly £4.4 million.

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“This is a significant figure and is not something that the council could, or should, write off, especially as we are having to make savings due to increasing budget pressures and an 80 per cent reduction in our government revenue grant.

“While the vast majority of residents resolved the issue quickly with us over the phone, a total of 124 customers arrived at Peterborough Magistrates’ Court on Tuesday.

“Our council tax officers were also present and actively worked with these residents to discuss their accounts and set up payment plans for the amount owed.

“Following this, no residents opted to speak directly to the magistrates and all attendees were seen by 11.15am.”

The queues outside the court were reminiscent of scenes in 2013 when summons were issued to more than 4,600 residents.

On that occasion it followed a shake-up of council tax benefits which left 8,750 city households paying the tax for the first time and another 2,350 seeing their bills increase.

At the time council officers said despite repeated efforts over the previous few months to get householders to contact the local authority to agree payment schedules for the year’s tax, many had failed to do so, forcing the summons, with 277 people turning up to the court.

A council spokeswoman said: “We would encourage any customer who has received a summons, but has not yet engaged with us, to telephone the recovery team urgently on 01733 452651 between 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday.”