‘Struggling’ Sunderland households owe £12.5million in council tax

Sunderland Civic Centre
Sunderland Civic Centre
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Residents in Sunderland owe almost £12.5million in unpaid council tax.

Those living in the city’s local authority area owed a total of £12,497,000 in unpaid bills as of March 31 this year – equivalent to an average of £99 per dwelling.

The figure, highlighted by National Debtline, the free advice service run by the Money Advice Trust, is down from £12,861,000 on 2013/14.

Durham County Council meanwhile is owed just over £23.9million, down from £27,387,000 last year.

A total of 301 calls for help were made from Wearside to National Debtline last year.

The charity says that council tax is now the fastest growing type of problem debt it is helping clients to resolve – with 24 percent of all callers now in arrears, up from 14 percent in 2007. Joanna Elson OBE, chief executive of the Money Advice Trust, said: “We are seeing more and more people seek help with council tax arrears – but the fact that Sunderland residents owe £12.4million, makes us concerned that many more people in the area are struggling alone.

“We would like to see local authorities do everything they can to help residents who are falling behind to seek the free advice that can turn their lives around.

“We know that the earlier a problem is caught, the better the outcome.

“I would urge anyone in Sunderland who is struggling to make their council tax payments to contact National Debtline as soon as possible.”

In response, Councillor Mel Speding, cabinet secretary at Sunderland City Council, said: “The figures for council tax arrears include all council tax that has become due up to March 31, 2015.

“However, not everyone pays in-year, but arrears are continuously monitored.

“Ultimately, more than 99 per cent of all council tax is collected. Residents have an excellent record of paying with more than 74,000 signed up to a direct debit.

“The council also offers weekly payment plans and works closely with community and voluntary organisations t o offer advice to those residents struggling to pay.”