COUNCIL tax dodgers in Bolton owe £10.6 million in unpaid bills, new figures show.

Each year, town-hall bosses need £94.7 million in council tax to keep the town running.

But tens of thousands of people have failed to pay since 1999 and the council is chasing £10.6 million — enough to build six primary schools.

The figures — obtained by The Bolton News using the Freedom of Information Act — also show the council collected 96.4 per cent of council tax due in 2012/13.

However they currently have bailiffs working on recovering a total of £2 million from 7,036 people who fell behind with payments in that year.

Since then, the payment rate has fallen and Tory critics blame the council’s ruling Labour group. Currently, £3.8 million of council tax from 2013/14 remains unpaid, which represents a collection rate of 95.8 per cent, compared with the 97 per cent national average.

Bolton was the only one of 10 Greater Manchester authorities to raise council tax this year.

Bolton Conservatives leader Cllr David Greenhalgh said: “Other councils realised the importance of giving help to families, but Bolton decided to put it up.

“It is no surprise that people are finding it tough and that collection of council tax is now harder.”

The council’s regeneration representative Cllr Ebrahim Adia said: “We had cut £100 million from our budget.

“There are many vulnerable people who rely on council services.You have to strike some kind of balance in terms of trying to maintain services in the context of significant reductions to the council budget.”

Cllr Adia denied there was a link between the drop in collection rates and the rise in the tax.

A Bolton Council spokesman said the reduction in the amount of council tax collected was due to the economic climate and changes to the welfare system.

He added: “We are continuing to collect these arrears and we encourage people to make arrangements for payment, but if this is not done we will take people to court if reminders are ignored.

“After this, if they do not pay we can apply for attachments of earnings, deductions from benefits, or send cases to the council’s bailiffs for collection.”