BASINGSTOKE taxpayers who collectively owed the authorities more than £600,000 had their debt written off last year.

A Freedom of Information (FOI) request submitted by The Gazette revealed £347,765.56 of council tax debt owed by Basingstoke and Deane residents was written off in the 2016/17 financial year.

Meanwhile, £255,446.72 of non-domestic rates - better known as business rates - was written off in the same period.

However, in the same year, Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council (BDBC) - which collects such debt - achieved its best ever year for collection rates of council tax and second best for business rates.

Cllr Robert Tate, BDBC cabinet member for finance, service delivery and improvement, said: “Although this is not all local council taxpayers’ money, it is all public money and we take the issue of pursuing debts very seriously - so we try to recover as much money as possible through a number of channels.

“However, once all reasonable recovery procedures have been exhausted, we do reach a point where some debts become very difficult and costly to recover, especially where a company has gone bankrupt or a person cannot be traced.

“In these cases, where it would ultimately cost the taxpayer more to recover the debt than is owed we have to, reluctantly, take the decision to write the debt off. Debts can be written off for various reasons including bankruptcies, liquidations or death.

“Although we have written off £603,000 in debt for council tax and business rates in 16/17, this must be put in the context of the £168 million we collected last year across these areas, meaning that we are only writing off 0.35% of this type of debt.”

The FOI showed that overall, since the 2012/13 financial year, more than £1.59m of council tax has been written off and more than £1.78m of business rate debt was erased by BDBC.

Cllr Tate added: “Nationally, we are comfortably among the top 25 per cent of councils in terms of our collection rates and our team won ‘Revenues Team of the Year’ last year at the IRRV Performance Awards after demonstrating high levels of performance and customer satisfaction.”