More than £43million is now owed to Bolton Council in unpaid council tax amid soaring cost-of-living pressures faced by people all over the borough.

Figures revealed under the Freedom of Information Act show that around £43.8M is currently owed by households all across the borough.

This comes as Bolton Council prepares to make cuts to services worth nearly £10million in its latest budget.

Council leader Cllr Nick Peel said: “That’s a ballpark figures, the bulk of that will be people in arrears who are currently paying their arrears.

“A minority will be people we are taking to court.”

The Bolton News: Council tax is used to fund various servicesCouncil tax is used to fund various services (Image: Newsquest)

He added: “Like any bill that people are struggling with, whether it be a utility bill or council tax, help is available to them.

“It is not the case that we send bailiffs out automatically, in the vast majority of cases we are able to work with people.”

Council tax is used to fund a range of services, from bin collection, transport services and parks maintenance, to maintenance of public places like libraries and schools.

In February this year, Bolton Council agreed to raise the tax by around five per cent.

This was one of several measures brought in to try and plug a multi-million pound hole in the authority’s finances from April 1 this year onwards.

As well as raising taxes, the council also gave the green light to £8.6M worth of cuts across all areas, from adults' services and children's services to recycling and streetlighting.

Around £10M in reserves was also allocated to try and fill the financial hole.

The Bolton News: The amount of council tax owed, broken down ward by wardThe amount of council tax owed, broken down ward by ward (Image: Bolton Council)

But the Freedom of Information figures show that £43,865,112.40 in total is already owed, broken down to different sums by different council wards.

The wards are drawn according to the old boundaries before they were redrawn at last year’s general election.

The most council tax was owed by households in Halliwell, where a total of £4,086,665.76 was unpaid.

More than £3M was also owed in the now defunct Crompton ward, which covered much of the central area of the town, where a total of £3,192,875.10 was owed.

Farnworth, which has since had its ward boundaries redrawn, was the only other ward to pass the £3M mark, with a total of £3,376,833.34 in unpaid council tax.

The ward with the least amount of unpaid council tax was Bradshaw, where £1,034,307.01 was owed.

Overall, there were 70275 live accounts across Bolton with a balance due.

The total of £43.8M marked a sharp increase on the £15.92M owed in 2009, when the council trialled a system of allowing employers to take unpaid council tax off people’s pay.

But in the years since the cost-of-living crisis has put people under huge financial pressure, particularly in Bolton’s more deprived areas.

Experts at debt charity StepChange have warned that people were already struggling even before the current stage of the crisis.

But as food and fuel bills remain high, they have warned that people are likely to continue to struggle.

StepChange head of communications Simon Trevethick, said: “Even prior to the cost-of-living crisis, council tax was a bill that many people found difficult to stay on top of.

“The total amount owed to councils currently stands at £5.5 billion, while around one in three StepChange clients are behind on this bill.

“With further rises in council tax likely in April, the situation for many households could worsen, particularly when so many are faced with other financial pressures brought on by the cost of living crisis.”

He added: “If you are in any doubt about your finances and feel like you may need support, please contact a debt advice charity like StepChange for free and impartial assistance.

“Our online debt advice tool allows you to get the support and advice you need at a time that suits you.

“Our advisors are also on hand via the phone should you need any help during your journey.”

Bolton Council have said that they also understand the pressures that people are facing and have advised that various schemes are available to help people who are struggling.

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A spokesperson said: “Like many areas across the UK, we know Bolton residents may be struggling with the cost of living and other financial pressures.

“Residents who are worried about their council tax bill should talk to us. They may be eligible for means-tested local council tax support, and a local council tax reduction award if they are in financial difficulty.

“Legal proceedings to recover funds are only ever used as a last resort.

“We have also worked with our partners in the charity sector to develop a comprehensive package of cost-of-living support, financial advice, and guidance.”

Debt advice can be found on StepChanges’ website or by calling and adviser on 0800 138 1111from Monday to Friday between 8am and 8pm and between 9am and 2pm on Saturdays.