No write-off yet for Borders poll tax debtors

MORE than £147,000 still owed in unpaid poll tax debts to Scottish Borders Council (SBC) is unlikely to be written off before it has to be, writes Mark Entwistle.

Last week, TheSouthern reported that the local authority was still owed £147,016, but the situation was unclear as to whether SBC would join some other Scottish councils in cancelling old outstanding poll tax arrears.

Local authorities north of the border are still owed a total of more than £320million from people who refused to pay the controversial community charge (poll tax), introduced in 1989 by the Conservative Government led by Margaret Thatcher and abolished four years later by her successor, John Major.

Four councils have already given up chasing outstanding poll tax monies, including Inverclyde, which cancelled £6million of debt last year. Argyll and Bute last year collected only £174 of the £3.4million still owed, while South Lanarkshire clawed back just £31,409 of the £30.9 million it is due.

In Edinburgh, council chiefs are owed over £72million, but collected just £65,838 in 2011.

Next year will see the 20th anniversary of the poll tax being replaced by the council tax and, under Scots Law, that interval means any outstanding payments will automatically be written off.

However, a spokesman for SBC has now informed TheSouthern that it did not look like the local authority was intending cancelling outstanding poll tax debts just yet.

“We will consider writing off debt that we feel is uncollectable in the normal course of reviewing debts of all types,” he told us, but added: “There are no plans, at the moment, to write off the £147,000 in totality.”