COUNCIL tax collection rates have shot up in Kirklees, thanks to a get-tough approach.
Thousands of visits by bailiffs, coupled with tens of thousands of court summonses and mailed reminders, ensured that, for the first time ever, the authority hit national collection targets.
In 2003/04 the crackdown included:
* More than 8,500 visits by bailiffs to demand outstanding payments from householders.
* 30,857 court summonses issued to non-payers.
* 86,696 reminders sent out to householders.
* Bankruptcy proceedings against 141 people, resulting in 22 of them being declared bankrupt.
By the end of the last financial year, the new approach meant council tax collection rates were running at 95.4%.
That was the highest rate of in-year collection since the council tax was introduced in 1993 and beats the national target set at 95.2%.
Ultimately, local collection rates run at 98.5% when staff finally catch up with all late payers outside the financial year. The news has helped make last July's poor figures a distant memory.
Then, with a collection rate of just 33%, Kirklees was just 22 places off the bottom in a naming and shaming league of 354 councils.
In real terms, the increase means an additional £2.5m in the council's coffers. Council tax raises about £110m for Kirklees every year.
Part of the success stems from the introduction of a new computer system which also saw waiting times drop for the processing of housing benefit and council tax benefit claims.
Clr Gordon Beever, Kirklees Cabinet member responsible for finance and legal services, said: "This is down to hard work from staff and a commitment by managers and cabinet to make sure this service moves from being a Cinderella service to one of the best performing."
He said outstanding bills would still be pursued.
"Just because we have got to 95.5% by the end of the year doesn't mean to say we stop collecting.
"The bit we haven't collected we don't just give up on."
He added: "The people who don't pay are sponging. But the number is much less than it used to be."