MORE than £600,000 owed to the borough council in unpaid council tax, housing benefit and other debts will be written off this year.

Councillor John Izett, the cabinet’s finance chief at Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council, has agreed to write off £270,412 in addition to the £364,052 already written off since April last year.

The debts have been written off for a variety of reasons including a person or business going bankrupt or if the borough council can no longer trace someone who has left the area.

All debts over £2,000 that are to be written off must be agreed by Cllr Izett. The responsibility for collecting payments is shared between a number of bodies including Hampshire County Council and police and fire authorities.

In addition, £19,479 in 208 unpaid car parking tickets had to be written off between April 1 and September 30, last year.

The borough council has launched a crackdown on unpaid debts during the last year, which includes measures to make it easier for residents to pay their council tax bills, such as simplifying the sign-up procedure for direct debits and taking payments over the phone, and working closely with bailiffs.

The local authority has also taken legal action against some residents who have unpaid council tax debts.

Andrew Hartley, of Inhams Way, in Silchester was recently ordered to repay £7,251.59 in unpaid council tax bills from between June 2010 and August 2013 at Basingstoke Magistrates’ Court after pleading guilty to four non-payment charges.

The 58-year-old is required to pay £150 a month to Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council, and if he fails to comply with the repayments, he could face 35 days in prison for each of the four charges.

Cllr Izett said: “Taking this action has been a last resort. We make every effort as a council to give help and advice to those of our residents who find themselves in difficulty paying their council tax bills and we will continue to be a considerate council.

“Since taking this action, the council has received some large payments from residents who have not communicated or paid their council tax for years.

“Over 98 per cent of our residents pay their council tax on time but there are a few who persistently fail to pay on time for the services they depend upon from this council. This is unfair on those residents who do pay on time.”