Praise for council’s efforts to collect all its various debts

Coun Dave Ledger

Coun Dave Ledger

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Councillors continue to be impressed by Northumberland’s debt-recovery efforts, tackling everything from council tax and rents to major debtors such as NHS trusts.

The praise was unanimous from members of the county council’s economic growth and corporate services overview committee at its meeting on Tuesday morning following an update on all debt issues from revenues and customer contact manager, Susan Mounsey.

So far this financial year, the council has written off a total of £600,000 of debt, which compares favourably to £2.7million in 2014/15, £2.2million in 2013/14 and £2.8million in 2012/13.

At January 31 this year, the authority was owed £14.3million in total, £6million of which was past its due date. At the same point last year, it was £12million, £6.5million of which was past due.

At January 31 this year, six customers had past due balances of more than £100,000, the likes of NHS bodies and other councils, representing about 62 per cent of the total debt.

Benchmarking data for 2014/15 showed that the council cleared 97 per cent of invoices within three months, against an average of 86 per cent across the contributing councils.

Introducing the report, Coun Dave Ledger, deputy leader of the county council, said: “We are performing extremely well in terms of outcomes.

“We would prefer not to write off anything, but sometimes we have to.”

Referring to those who deliberately avoid payments, he added: “Some people have gone to prison and I’m not ashamed of saying that because they are depriving this authority of resources, which are scarce.”