TAX dodgers owe Bury Council more than £6 million in unpaid bills — and town hall chiefs are refusing to write off the debt and are sending in the bailiffs.

The amount outstanding has grown each year since 1999, and last year alone about 6,000 people owed a total of £1.8 million in unpaid council tax.

The annual budget assumes that the council will not get two per cent of the £74 million it should receive in council tax.

But unlike some councils — which write off the debt — Bury is pursuing as much of the owed money as it can.

Town hall bosses estimate that by sending in the debt collectors, it can recoup £4.6 million of the £6.4 million owed.

In the 2012/13 tax year, the council instructed bailiffs to collect money from 15,096 people.

Bury Times obtained the figures using Freedom of Information laws.

Council leader Cllr Mike Connolly said: “Our figures show that we actually collect a lot more than the 98 per cent projection rate.

“We are then able to put the extra amount towards services and reduce the level of cuts we have to make.

“Unlike many councils, we do not write off these debts, even though that would be the easy thing to do.

“We take a long-term approach to debt collection and we never give up.

“We have a dedicated team of officers who focus on historic debts and this continues to pay dividends.Bury has the second-best collection rate in Greater Manchester.”

Bury Conservatives leader Cllr Iain Gartside said: “It is hoped that the council has an appropriate strategy in place to keep all monies outstanding to a minimum.”

Bury Lib Dems representative, Cllr Tim Pickstone, said: “At these times when councils have to save money, it is vitally important that Bury Council is collecting in all the money that it is owed in council tax.

“The priority must be to have good-quality services for local people.”