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£250k debts owed to council to be written off

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By Marc McLean, local democracy reporter
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£250k debts owed to council to be written off

A BIG name retailer and a Lockerbie timber firm are among businesses who racked up £250,000 in debt to Dumfries and Galloway Council – and then disappeared.

Wilko Retail, Clansman Timber Services, Caversham Trading, and Free Space Solutions failed to pay non-domestic rates to the local authority totalling £249,649 between 2018 and 2023.

Debt collection companies were drafted in to try and claw back some of the money owed, but it’s highly unlikely that the local authority will see a penny of the quarter million.

Now, with the companies either going into administration, being liquidated, or dissolved, councillors are now being asked to write off the substantial debts.

A report due to be tabled at the council’s finance committee next week details how Lockerbie-based Clansman Timber Services racked up a bill of £108,680.

Nine different payments were missed between 2018 and 2022, according to council papers.

The report states: “Clansman Timber Services Ltd dissolved from September 20, 2022. Accounts passed to Stirling Park (debt collection agency) to progress recovery.

“Bank arrestments attempted but failed and no attachable assets.

“Stirling Park advised in 2021 recovery prospects were poor.”

The council was even considering seeking sequestration of the company boss in August 2022, which could have seen the individual being forced to file for bankruptcy, their assets being sold, and being banned from becoming a company director again.

However, the idea was dropped because it would likely have failed due to Clansman Timber Services being set up as a limited company.

Meanwhile, Wilko Retail – which closed its shop in Castle Douglas last September after going into administration – owed the council £13,730 in non-domestic rates for 2023/24.

The council papers state: “Wilko Retail Ltd went into administration on August 10, 2023. Account sent to Stirling Park in October 2023.

“No action taken from Stirling Park to recover debt due to company being in administration.”

Caversham Trading failed to pay its non-domestic rates bills to the council between 2021 and 2023, which totalled £56,837.

The firm had gone into administration near the beginning of the pandemic on March 30, 2020, and the council was legally unable to take legal action for any unpaid bills. The company then later dissolved on June 20, 2023.

Free Space Solutions racked up non-domestic rates debts that totalled £70,442 between 2021 and 2023.

Council papers state that bank arrestments were attempted in January 2023, but failed. The company had gone into liquidation.

Councillors will discuss the matter at next week’s finance committee and will be asked to approve writing off these debts due to companies going under.

Finance chiefs admitted that the level of these non-domestic rates write-offs are “higher than experienced in previous years.”

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