MORE than 1000 council tax debts owed to Dumfries and Galloway Council were recently written off.
Finance chiefs have delegated authority to wipe the slate clean for debts under £10,000 that the local authority has been struggling to claim.
In the last six months of 2022/23, these totalled 1091 residents failing to pay council tax worth a total of £81,051.
The local authority also lost out on £23,941 due to 63 overpayments of housing benefit that couldn’t be clawed back.
And with 13 non-domestic rates bills for businesses worth £21,317, along with sundry debts of £65,312, there were 1405 debts in total worth £191,441 that went unpaid.
These figures were presented in a report at the last finance, procurement and transformation committee, where some councillors were concerned about the high number of debt write-offs under £10,000.
Annandale South Councillor Sean Marshall called for more details and
said: “Any kind of write-off of public debt should have the appropriate scrutiny.
“When we used to get this report we’d get a lot more detail. I know it’s under delegated authority now that we write off anything below £10,000 but there’s 1400 cases of that.”
Mid Galloway and Wigtown West Councillor Katie Hagmann raised the same concerns, adding: “Looking back at the council tax write-off below £10,000, we’ve got over 1000 there.”
Lindsay Wilson, the council’s financial transactions manager, confirmed that further details can be provided in future to explain various elements of debt write-offs.
On the plus side, the local authority’s collection rate for council tax in 2022/23 was 97 percent – a 0.9 percent increase compared to 2021/22.
And of those 1091 council tax debt write-offs for the period between October 2022 and March 2023, the collections team still managed to obtain payments from 280 residents further down the line, even though the debts had been written off. This amounted to £28,711.
The council report states: “This shows that the council still actively pursues debt if circumstances change, in order to maximise receipts.”