MORE than £1.6m in unpaid council tax from just one year was recovered by two tenacious councils.

In 2016/17, South Oxfordshire and Vale of White Horse district councils issued more than 5,300 court summonses to people who had failed to pay their council tax.

Magistrates then granted liability orders against 3,600 of those individuals – this meant enforcement action, including the use of bailiffs, could be taken to retrieve the money.

Almost all of those in arrears then paid the money they owed, but the councils were forced to take further action against 96 people to ensure they paid their fair share towards the cost of providing public services.

This resulted in 53 people receiving charging orders – which allows the councils to enforce the sale of a persons’ property to retrieve the money. One person who deliberately failed to pay was sent to prison - Leslie Brett, 57, from Netherton Road, Appleton - while seven were given suspended sentences.

The councils also recovered and saved a further £167,000 after 62 people were caught claiming discounts on their council tax they weren’t entitled to. This resulted in nine being prosecuted in court and 47 fined.

Jane Murphy, deputy leader of South Oxfordshire, said: "It’s vital that everyone pays their fair share for the services we provide, such as waste and recycling collections. Anyone who doesn’t do so puts added pressure on the public purse and effectively cheats all those who do contribute."

Vale leader Matthew Barber added: "Help is always available for anyone who is genuinely struggling to pay, however if someone deliberately refuses to pay we won’t hesitate to take tough enforcement action - this could result in a court appearance, a prison sentence or even someone losing their home."