OPTIONS will be brought in front of Blaenau Gwent councillors to discuss whether the cash-strapped authority can use overpaid council tax which has been left unclaimed.
In January a Freedom of Information request revealed that at the end of November 2022, Blaenau Gwent County Borough Council had £842,819.19 in its coffers from overpaid bills.
Although there is no legal requirement for any council to notify individuals that they have overpaid their council tax, which is normally paid in 10 monthly payments from April to February each financial year, authorities will issue a closing bill if there change in circumstance such as moving house.
If there is any credit on a householder’s account, it should count as payment towards a new bill.
At a Blaenau Gwent council meeting on Thursday, February 24, to set the budget for 2023/2024, the unclaimed overpaid Council Tax was part off discussion.
Opposition group leader Cllr Joanna Wilkins said: “We’ve had a fair bit of press coverage on the overpayment of council tax that is currently just sitting there.
“I fully acknowledge that it’s not our money and that it belongs to other people.”
“Do we treat it as lost property?”
Cllr Wilkins wondered what would happen to money that can’t be repaid.
Cllr Wilkins said: “We don’t currently have a policy so what do we do with it?
“Because that could go back into reserves and could help save some public services.
“We need to ask the question – can it be looked at as everything’s on the table.”
Blaenau Gwent’s resources chief officer Rhian Hayden said that her team are working on bringing “options” for councillors to discuss about the money.
Ms Hayden said: “There is about £500,000 of credit against council tax.
“Whatever we decide to do it’s on the understanding that if individuals come forward and request that money, we will be duty-bound to repay it.”
Cllr Wilkins added: “All I’m asking for is to have a look at it.”
Later in the meeting councillors voted to approve a 3.45 per cent increase in the council tax, with a funding gap of £6.62 million in the 2023/2024 budget to be filled by a mixture of cuts, savings and use of reserves.
The Limitation Act 1980 would “signify” that tax payers have six years to try and claim back the overpayment.
The umbrella organisation, which represents all 22 council tax bill issuing authorities, the Welsh Local Government Association (WLGA) explained that unclaimed overpayments stay with the council unless they are refunded.
Eventually that money could become part of a council’s finances to be used on services.
A WLGA spokesman said: “After a period of time councils probably will have a ‘write back’ provision in their write off policy to absorb the balances.
“Some authorities review such credits after eight to 10 years.”
The WLGA advise residents to check their council tax bill and if it is in credit to contact the council and request a refund.