Northumberland County Council writes off more than £1m debt, and is owed more than £5m in care payments

There has been a rise in the number of Northumberland residents who say they cannot afford their care due to the cost of living crisis.
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A report presented to councillors on the council’s corporate services overview and scrutiny committee highlighted that its adult social care team had also seen several customers making “partial payments” because “that is all they can afford.”

The report revealed that there were more than 3,963 invoices outstanding, at a value of more than £5.3 million.

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The coronavirus crisis has also caused delays in residents getting court-appointed deputies and lasting power of attorneys put in place, adding to the debt as some money is due pending court decisions.

Northumberland County Council has written off more than £1m of debt this financial year.Northumberland County Council has written off more than £1m of debt this financial year.
Northumberland County Council has written off more than £1m of debt this financial year.

The report also revealed that Northumberland County Council has written off more than £1.1 million in debt deemed “irrecoverable” over the last financial year.

While 2021-2022 was a significant rise from 2020-21’s figure of £793,504, the total amount of debt written off in 2018-19 and 2019-20 exceeded £2 million.

Last year’s low figure was put down to coronavirus, with staff resources being redirected to the council’s coronavirus response. Deputy leader Coun Richard Wearmouth said it was “probably a year where we’re back a little bit more to normal after Covid”.

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The largest amount of debt was written off in housing rent, with a total of £786,935. Council tax was the next highest category, with £139,803.

As of September 30, £457,906 worth of debt had been written off for this financial year, which runs until the beginning of April. Again, the highest single category is housing rent and other debt in that sector, totalling £220,658.

Speaking at the meeting, the council’s chief financial officer Jan Willis said: “Clearly we’re still suffering from a Covid hangover and I think that’s going to be with us for a few years as we work through the financial impact of that.

“We have made progress in the first six months of the year and now we’re able to resume enforcement action and debt recovery action through the courts. I am very aware that the cost of living crisis is an issue, but it doesn’t appear to have had an impact on collection yet.”