A SENIOR Knutsford councillor has defended Cheshire East Council after it was revealed that more than £15 million is overdue in council tax in the borough.

The Guardian obtained the figures under the Freedom of Information Act, which show that £15,223,070 is outstanding, with £449,531 overdue in Knutsford.

But Clr Peter Raynes, cabinet member in charge of finance and Knutsford ward member, says that the authority has an ‘outstanding record’ for collecting Council Tax.

“We are in the top third of all the country’s unitary authorities,” said the Hallside Park resident.

“Over the past 10 years £1.8 billion of council tax has been collected, and this equates to more than 99 per cent of the amount due.

“It is impossible for any council to collect 100 per cent of its council tax, and the figure of £15 million that is uncollected over 10 years in Cheshire East is less than one per cent of the total.

“Typically this is because individuals are declared bankrupt or residents pass away.

“However, we remain committed to ensuring that council tax is collected. Every month we make applications to the courts.

“Following these applications, we take appropriate action to collect the debt.

“Typically, this could mean we instruct a bailiff or arrange for a direct deduction from pay.”

Clr Andrew Malloy, of Knutsford Town Council, said: “Obviously unpaid council tax is a concern.

“Clearly the less money coming into the coffers the less there is to spend on important services, and the last thing anyone wants to see is services cut because of a failure to collect much needed taxes.

“It would be interesting to know what Cheshire East Council is doing to minimise non payments.

“But also, considering we are in very difficult financial times, what help, support and advice it is offering to those who find themselves unable to pay, often having to make their own difficult decisions on whether to pay their council tax or heat their homes and eat.”