Council wrote off £1.1m in bad debts last year

Argyll and Bute Council wrote off more than £1.1 million owed to the authority last year, Bute Community Council has been told this week.

Island councillor Robert Macintyre revealed the figures after quizzing Douglas Hendry, the executive director of customer services, on the subject at a council meeting on June 14.

The authority wrote off a total sum of £1,132,339.48 during the 2011-12 financial year, in one of four categories: uncollected council tax (£421,894.20), housing benefit overpayments (273,287.98), non-domestic rates (£190,796.72) and ‘sundry debts’ (£246,360.58).

Cllr Macintyre read out a reply he had received from Judy Orr, the council’s head of customer and support services, which stated: “These sums may seem large, but they are in fact relatively small in comparison with total amounts handled.

“For example, the largest is for council tax, where we billed £54 million in 2011-12, so this is less than one per cent.”

Write-offs normally fall into one of six categories:

* where the debtor is deceased and there are no assets in the estate;

* liquidations or sequestrations in which no further dividend is expected;

* recommendations by sheriff’s officers;

* ‘gone away’, where the council is unable to trace the debtor;

* housing benefit overpayments, in which the debt is non-recoverable if it is caused by a local authority error, the error usually being the result of any delay in processing a change in circumstances;

* ‘miscellaneous’ - usually caused by system errors where a write-off is the only way to correct an erroneous debt.

Among the debts currently owed to the council are £406 from the ‘oldco’ Rangers FC, currenrtly in the process of being liquidated.