THE COUNCIL has missed out on more than £3.1m in the last five years after a number of taxes from residents went unpaid.

An investigation by the News found that the council had not collected hundreds of thousands of pounds each year from unpaid business rates, housing benefit and council tax.

As a result of this the council was forced to set aside more than £2.1m from a ‘collection fund’ to cover the debts.

Stuart McKellar, director of finance, said: “Bracknell Forest Council has one of the highest collection rates in the country for both council tax and business rates.

“Last year we successfully collected 98.5 per cent of council tax and 99.9 per cent of business rates due.

“This puts Bracknell Forest comfortably among the top quarter of all authorities in the country.

“The council is committed to ensuring all council tax and business rates fees are paid, however it is inevitable that some money due will become uncollectible.

“This could be for a variety of extreme reasons such as bankruptcy, imprisonment or death of the person owing the funds.”

The year up to 2015 saw the council lose almost £1.05m - the largest amount of unrecovered debt from the five years investigated.

In this year the council saw more than £320,000 lost through unpaid rent deposits, £193,000 was squandered from missed business rates and a further £150,000 of housing benefit was not obtained.

Since then the council has reduced the amount of its uncollected debt every year.

The year up to 2016 saw the authority lose more than half-a-million pounds overall, £477,000 in 2017 and £220,000 in 2018.

By the 2018 financial year unobtained business rates collection had fallen by more than 90 per cent from 2014.

Unrecovered council tax and housing benefits also saw their lowest rates of all the five years in the last financial year.

In order to cover the uncollected fees, the council were forced to use more than £2.1m of its collection fund.

From 2013-2016 the authority was forced to shell out almost £500,000 every year to cover the debts but in each of the last two years BFC has spent £369,500 on filling the gap left by the debt.

This is despite the council failing to recover £220,000 in the most recent financial year.

Explaining the difference between the uncollected debt amount and the amount set aside from the collection fund, Mr McKellar said: “A provision is made for this each year in the collection fund, which is separate from the council’s main revenue budget.

“Any surplus or deficit in the collection fund in any year is carried forward into the future year’s revenue budget.

“Despite the level of uncollectable debts, there have been surpluses in the collection fund in recent years.”

The News’ investigation found that the council does not rely on outside agencies for debt recovery but instead uses reminders and final notice documents produced by their legal department in order to recover outstanding money.

In April it was announced that the council would have to make £20m of cuts over the next two years despite having saved £30m in the last five years.