THE council has defended its tax collection track record as it is revealed the amount of unpaid bills across London’s local authorities has reached £800m.
The Observer obtained data through a Freedom of Information request that reveals Harrow Council has had 11,499 unpaid council tax bills in the past 20 years.
Of the 11,499 outstanding unpaid council tax bills, 4,566 liability orders have been made, with no committals to prison.
Despite the council’s relatively strong collection rate, its collection performance during the financial year of 2012/2013 was the worst in 20 years.
Robert Oxley, campaign manager of the Tax Payers Alliance, said: “London councils can’t afford to leave hundreds of millions in tax uncollected, although it’s no wonder some people are struggling to pay when boroughs like Harrow have increased council tax this year.”
The borough relies heavily on council tax collection efficiency as the grant the borough receives from central government is relatively lower than other, similar London boroughs.
Portfolio holder for finance councillor, Sachin Shah, told the Observer: “It’s very important we as a council do everything we can to collect outstanding bills. We take a strong stance.
“We always make sure we collect as much as we can and when we are in the top London quartile. I am confident in saying that.
“There’s always going to be people who disappear, move abroad or people who are made bankrupt.”
Harrow has the third highest council tax across London after a two per cent rise last month.
Within the raft of benefit reforms enacted by the Tory-led coalition government, there will be many who in this financial year will have to pay council tax for the first time.
Councillor Susan Hall, leader of the Conservative group at Harrow Council, said: “Harrow has traditionally done very well at collecting council tax, but if Labour keep pushing our rates up and up, not only will residents’ pockets be hit by higher bills, those who do pay will suffer further if more and more refuse to.”
The BBC reported last week that there has been £800m of unpaid of council bills across London in the past 20 years, which includes unpaid parking fees and business rates.