By Daniel Wood
Bad debts totalling £5.74million have been written off over the last financial year by Kirklees Council.
A large amount of the debt was incurred due to student property owners going bust.
Unpaid council tax made up over £3m of the debt, unpaid business rates totalled over £1.2m and over £500k was owed to the council’s Housing Revenue Account (HRA).
The £5.74m amounted to 1.16% of overall debt raised and was less than in 2018/19.
It is being predicted that next year there will be a strong rise in unrecoverable debt due to the worsening Coronavirus pandemic.
When presenting the annual write-off report to the council’s Corporate Governance and Audit Committee, the head of welfare and exchequer services said that the most recent figure continued the generally downward trend of the last few years.
He added: “However, due to the current climate of Covid-19 and the downturn in the economy we are not expecting that trend to continue in future years.”
Write-offs of council tax and business rates are outlined in several categories, including cases where people could not be traced or it was not viable to pursue them for payment.
Debts associated with council tax and business rates were incurred mainly because of ‘significant write-offs’ as a result of the companies that owned student accommodation in the region were going out of business.
Almost £900k in council tax was down to people going bust.
The largest amount of money owed to the HRA was £369,994 and it was written off as being not viable to pursue.
The other highest areas of write-off were in the Finance, IT and Transactional Services (£291,239), Adult Social Care (£273,600), and Economy and Skills directorates (£189,690).
Coun John Taylor described the report as “another good performance” adding, “We are not seeing a vast amount of write-offs.”
Mr Bird said Kirklees Neighbourhood Housing, the arms-length management organisation (ALMO) that runs the council’s properties, will take “all reasonable steps” to recover unpaid money.
The bad debt has not necessarily been written off forever, and that if a non-payer was identified, efforts would be made to claw money back, according to Committee Chair Cllr Will Simpson.