§ Mr. Blizzard
To ask the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister what council tax and non-domestic rates collection rates were achieved by English billing authorities in 2001–02. 
§ Mr. Raynsford
I am publishing today figures showing that English councils have collected an extra £40 million in council taxes this year by simply improving on council tax collection rates. The figures show the good start of a joint initiative launched last year by us and the Local Government Association (LGA), to help poorly performing councils improve their collection rates.
English councils had collected £12.84 billion in council taxes for 2001–02 by the end of March 2002. The figures represent 96.1 per cent. of the £13.36 billion collectable. This is an increase of 0.3 per cent. on the previous year.
We recognise that council tax collection has therefore improved slightly, and that many councils are making a great effort. However, half a billion pounds was still uncollected last year. We recognise that this is money that could have been spent on local services and we believe there is still room for improvement. The Council Tax Collection Help Team which we set up with the LGA last year will continue its work to identify and tackle barriers to better performance and encourage good practice.
We also recognise that the in-year collection rate does not provide the full picture of the work authorities put in to collecting council tax. We will also be collecting and publishing authorities' levels of arrears and performance in collecting them.
The councils showing the best improvements in their performance include Hackney Council, which improved its collection rate from 67.8 per cent. during 2000–2001 to 74.0 per cent. this year, an increase of 6.2 percentage points; Lambeth Council, which improved its collection rate from 1149W 82.0 per cent. during 2000–2001 to 86.5 per cent. this year, an increase of 4.5 percentage points; and Southwark Council, which improved its collection rate from 87.1 per cent. during 2000–2001 to 90.2 per cent. this year, an increase of 3.1 percentage points.
Other improving councils include North Hertfordshire, an increase of 2.8 percentage points, Waltham Forest, an increase of 2.6 percentage points, Castle Point, an increase of 2.5 percentage points, South Gloucestershire UA, an increase of 2.5 percentage points, and Oxford City, an increase of 2.4 percentage points.
In addition, figures show that £14.42 billion in non-domestic rates for 2001–2002 had been collected by the end of March. This represents 97.9 per cent. of the £14.74 billion collectable, an improvement of 0.5 percentage points on last year.
Background note "Information for the Minister (Not for the public domain)".