Eastbourne households owe £7.1m in unpaid council tax

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Eastbourne residents owe more than £7m in unpaid council tax – the highest figure in East Sussex outside Brighton and Hove.

Research by the National Debtline, a free advice service run by the charity Money Advice Trust, showed that households were behind on their bills by a cumulative total of £7,162,000 at the end of 2014/15, up from £6,368,000 the year before.

The helpline received 125 calls from Eastbourne residents in 2014, the second highest figure in the county after Brighton and Hove.

Although Eastbourne Borough Council is the collecting authority East Sussex County Council and Sussex Police also set their own council tax precepts.

A spokesperson for Eastbourne Borough Council said: “We work hard to ensure that collection rates for council tax are among the highest for any taxes.

“The council has a responsibility to all Eastbourne residents to collect council tax due and arrears are only written off in exceptional circumstances, for example if the taxpayer has passed away.

“We help people who are struggling to pay, working with them to find suitable ways of paying that fit in with their circumstances. Anyone who has difficulty paying should contact us as soon as possible and not leave it until the last moment.

“We have a local council tax reduction scheme, which helps people on low income, and people of working age can also take advantage of the East Sussex welfare reform initiative (call the advice line on 0333 344 0681 or email benefitseastsussex@harcuk.com for help on a range of benefit matters).”

Joanna Elson, chief executive of the Money Advice Trust, said: “We are seeing more and more people seek help with council tax arrears – but the fact that Eastbourne residents owe £7m makes us concerned that many more people in the area are struggling alone. Free debt advice services such as National Debtline are here to help.

“We would like to see local authorities do everything they can to help residents who are falling behind to seek the free advice that can turn their lives around. We know that the earlier a problem is caught, the better the outcome.

“I would urge anyone in Eastbourne who is struggling to make their council tax payments to contact National Debtline as soon as possible. Our expert advisers are on hand to work through your situation and help you get back on track with your finances.”

National Debtline offers free, independent and confidential advice 24 hours a day online at www.nationaldebtline.org and on 0808 808 4000, Monday to Friday 9am to 9pm, Saturday 9.30am to 1pm.

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