By Carl Jackson Thursday 07 March 2013 Updated: 07/03 15:29
THE DISTRICT council is set to write off almost £700,000 of bad debt, it has been revealed.
The figures were tabled at Wednesday's (March 7) meeting of the cabinet committee which is made up of the Conservative group's leading members.
Coun Roger Hollingworth, leader of Bromsgrove District Council, said it was 'staggering' £686,268.95 had gone uncollected between April 1 and December 31 last year but admitted officers had done everything they could to pursue the debt.
Out of that sum, £400,731 was owed by companies which had failed to pay business rates and £104,467 of that could not be collected because firms had simply 'gone away' and could not be found.
Mr Hollingworth said the council had to write off a 'six figure sum' owed by Redditch based firm iForce because it had disputed the valuation of their premises.
The Standard contacted iForce but a spokeswoman for the company refused to comment.
From April this year uncollected business rates will directly cost the council because the Government is changing how it collects them.
Coun Hollingworth said: "We had to write off a fairly large amount just for that one [iForce].
"I can't believe the number of people [companies] that don't pay business rates and just disappear.
"You would not believe how many businesses we can't track.
"Officers have done everything they can before we get to a position where we have to write it off.
"Its very frustrating."
The council leader also admitted he was concerned about the £213,502 of council tax from the nine month period which would remain unpaid.
There are currently council tax arrears totalling £1.4million, however Coun Hollingworth is hopeful the majority would be clawed back by the end of the financial year on March 31.
And he said he was reluctant to pursue hard-working residents.
"There is no way we will chase the working poor its the last thing we want to do.
"99 per cent of the population are good hard-working people, the vast majority abide by the law and try to live as they should and we have to look after them."
Other debts which were declared at the meeting included a £25,000 bill for contract work the council had yet to be paid for, as well as £47,000 of overpaid housing benefit which has also been written off.
Despite the alarming figures, the council does have a provision worth £808,090 to cover bad debts and Coun Hollingworth argued they were outweighed by the money which was paid to the council.
"The figures are large and quite frightening, but compared to what we do collect they are relatively small.
"They have to be taken in context and in broad terms."
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