MORE than half-a-million pounds owed to East Renfrewshire Council has been written off.

Members of the local authority’s cabinet met last week to discuss debts accrued through council tax arrears and unpaid rates.

Councillors agreed to dismiss the debts, some of which were caused by the deaths of residents.

In the case of council tax, a total of 126 accounts with total debts of more than £36,600 are being closed.

More than £12,000 worth of debts owed through water and sewage bills that haven’t been met have also been written off.

Another 437 accounts are being sequestrated, at a combined loss to the council of £322,860.

The amount is up from the sum written off for council tax and water charges last year.

However, council bosses have said the debts are worth less than 0.5 per cent of the total being collected by the local authority.

They also pointed out that East Renfrewshire is ranked fourth highest out of all 32 Scottish local authorities when it comes to the percentage of council tax it manages to collect.

The meeting was told almost £92,000 worth of housing benefit was overpaid to residents, with £12,000 of that total sent to 44 people who had died.

Another 32 cases, amounting to two-thirds of the written-off total, had their debts sequestrated.

Last year, the council recovered 89 per cent of overpayments, compared to 71 per cent the year before.

Debts for non-domestic rates worth almost £160,000, involving 59 firms, have also been dismissed.

Issues such as companies being liquidated or dissolved can make it difficult for the council to collect such debts.

Almost all of the amount dates to the years between 2016 and 2019, although some go as far back as 2005/06.

Around £70,000 is being written off for “sundry debt income,” where there is a low likelihood of recovery by sheriff officers.

The report to cabinet stated: “Every effort is made to recover these sums and the decision to seek write-off is not taken lightly or without due cause.

“Should any future avenue become available by which to recover these monies, this decision does not prevent any such opportunities being pursued, hence the recommendation of write-offs ‘up to’ said amounts.”

A further report will be prepared on irrecoverable non-domestic rates in the coming financial year.

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