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Last Updated: Wednesday, 5 December 2007, 13:09 GMT
Poll tax write-off call rejected
Community Charge form
There was strong resistance to the community charge
Scottish councils have rejected a call from a leading consumer body to write off outstanding poll tax debts.

Citizens Advice Scotland (CAS) said many of its clients were being pursued for arrears 14 years after it was abolished.

However, council umbrella group Cosla said there would be "no amnesty" for those refusing to pay poll tax.

Thousands declined to pay the unpopular community charge and outstanding arrears are still more than 400m.

Local authorities have managed to claw back about 3m per year but CAS said it was time to drop further demands.

One in four Citizens Advice Bureau clients in Scotland still has an outstanding council tax or community charge debt
Kaliani Lyle
CAS chief executive

The organisation highlighted several cases, including a pensioner couple facing the arrest of 600 from their bank account despite being adamant that they owe nothing.

"One in four Citizens Advice Bureau clients in Scotland still has an outstanding council tax or community charge debt," said CAS chief executive Kaliani Lyle.

"But many other people are unable to prove that they have paid charges over a decade ago.

"Those in receipt of benefits at the time also struggle to access records kept by the then Department for Social Security for this period."

Key services

Councils in Scotland can chase debts for 20 years, but CAS wants the country to take on the English six-year cut-off limit.

Cosla finance spokesperson Graeme Morrice said it was in the interests of communities for councils to chase debts, which were used to pay for key services.

"There will be no amnesty for those who choose not to pay council tax or poll tax. It is unfair on those who diligently pay," he said.

"It is a matter for individual authorities, but really there is no option but to pursue those with outstanding debt."

The community charge was introduced into Scotland in April 1989 and in England and Wales a year later, before being replaced by the council tax in 1993.

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