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We've given up on pounds 1.3m.

Byline: By John Cook

Councils in the North last night admitted giving up the chase for more than a million pounds in unpaid tax.

It comes after statistics showed yesterday that up to pounds 35m in council tax from the past tax year is yet to be collected by local authorities across the North.

A survey by The Journal showed Newcastle Council had been forced to write off the largest amount of unpaid council tax, with pounds 220,000 discounted from 2003-4.

Carlisle Council has written off more than pounds 190,000 and Darlington Borough Council has given up on more than pounds 165,000.

If the figures revealed by 18 North councils yesterday were replicated across the region efforts to collect more than pounds 1.3m would have been abandoned. A spokesman for Newcastle Council said that the majority of the written-off tax is accounted for by death, liquidations and bad debt.

But North-East landlords last night spoke out against calls by the GMB union to give them more responsibility to ensure their tenants paid tax bills.

Fiona Bell, of Newcastle-based Bellwood Associates, said: "Collecting council tax is the job of the council, not landlords. Landlords have enough to do without the council passing the buck."

Pat Robson, of Pat Robson and Co, from Jesmond, Newcastle, said: "We already do our part informing the authorities of our tenants' details."

But GMB regional organiser Julie Elliott said: "We don't want a change in the law to force landlords to collect the tax, just to give them the option to do so.

"The larger letting companies should find it easy and it would cut council tax loss significantly, and if that doesn't happen, either the paying public will have to pay more tax or services will get poorer."
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Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Nov 1, 2005
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