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Caithness News Bulletins December 2005

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Council Lobbying Scottish Executive To Refuse Drinks Licences For Rate Payers In Arrears
Highland Councillors have been advised of the Council's continuing improvement in collections of Council Tax and Non-Domestic Rates.

The collection rate of Council Tax from all prior years since the Council was established nine years ago is 96.89%. The amount collected for 2004/5 by the end of that year was 94.1%, and in the current financial year the Council hopes to improve on this rate.

The improvement is significantly helped by the 59,000 who pay by direct debit and the availability of on-line payment via the Council's web site: www.highland.gov.uk

And the Council is vigilant in chasing non-payers. In the current financial year to date, 38,685 reminder/final notices and 3,354 separate final notices have been issued with 17,034 summary warrants raised.

For Non-Domestic rates, the collection rate also remains on an upward direction. The collection rate for prior years is now 98.95%. Although in 2004/5 "in year" collections of 96% fell slightly below the Scottish average, this was due to late valuation changes affecting a substantial number of timeshare properties. The current year will see the benefit of this income.

The Council has carried out sequestration or liquidation action against 18 parties over the past three years. The threat of sequestration or liquidation has resulted in cash collections of almost 250,000.

Councillor John Matheson, Chairman of the Resources Committee, said: "I am pleased to note the continuing improvement trend since 1996. The public can be assured that we take all reasonable measures to recover what is lawfully due.

"In relation to Non-Domestic Rates, the Council has lobbied hard for changes to legislation which would mean refusal of drinks licences to those rate payers in arrears of local taxes. I am pleased that the Depute Minister for Finance, George Lyon, MSP, is attracted to the idea proposed by this Council and that this will be considered with the forthcoming research by the Executive into non payment of local taxes."

In the current financial year, the Council has to collect 83.8 million of Council Tax; 75.2 million of Non Domestic Rates and 48.5 million of sundry debts.