The Ealing Times is today covering the issue of how much council tax we collect. They manage to turn a good news story into a bad news one.
The year before last the council had a glitch and managed to leave £7.1 million uncollected at the end of the year. This does not mean that this was all lost. Much of this was collected subsequently. Since then, according to a rather out of date GMB press release dated 27th September, Ealing has improved its performance such that it is the second most improved borough in London. At the end of this year the shortfall was was much reduced to £5.2 million and since the year end a further £1.5 million has been collected.
It is irritating that some people get away without paying. If they do a moonlight flit it can cost more to collect the money than you could recover. The £5.2 million sounds like a lot but the council had collected 95.6% of its projected £122 million council tax income by the end of the year.
It is worth comparing this tax with the Mayor’s CC which is essentially another tax. Last year the Mayor collected £254 million in revenue but spent £148 million in costs. This left a surplus of only £106 million (without considering the capital costs of the project). By comparison it costs the council only about £3 million to collect both council tax and business rates.
The Times’ Benedict Moore Bridger is indulging in voodoo economic when he adds previous year’s outstandings to calculate amounts of council tax that could be returned to residents. Most of this is collected after the year end.
As part of our VFM agenda the new administration is keeping a close eye on this area and expects Ealing’s improved performance in this area to keep on improving.