Barry Peters: The missing millions

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With a hefty thud, my Council Tax demand hit the doormat this week.

I’m one of those people who read all the literature accompanying the demand - then have a really meaningful moan (well, it’s meaningful to me) about where all that money goes.

I understand there are county, borough and town elements, plus the police and fire costs, but does it really cost THAT much per household? I’m sure I’m not alone in questioning my council - poor St Eds just happens to be in the firing line for this one through simple geography...

My moans became somewhat louder though when I later read that St Edmundsbury was due to write off debts totalling almost £170,000 only last night.

The money includes more than £18,000 in unpaid Council Tax, £144,000 in business rates, and housing benefit overpayments of £5,600. A report also stated that there was a further £3.6 million in unpaid Council Tax and £2 million in business rates dating back for the last seven years that the council is still trying to collect.

Surely, a fraction under £150 (my monthly bill) could just be ‘written off’ too as an unnecessary demand in the circumstances?

The more serious issue though is how likely we are to actually ever see that ‘missing’ £5.6 million – a total which will have had another few thousand added to it by now, if officer recommendations are nodded through.

In any other sphere, a ‘loss’ of £5.6m would be catastrophic. It would be enough to sink many businesses without trace. But for the councils in the UK, they are assured an income from the public they serve, year after year.

And what could that £5.6 million do for the benefit of Bury St Edmunds (and Haverhill)?

How about a new bandstand for the Abbey Gardens? More public lavatories? New street rangers? Weekly bin collections? The list goes on...