The debt is affecting the level of services offered by the council's hard pressed social services department - already forced to cut expenditure buy £9.4m to keep within budget during 1996/97
The council says that almost £1.2m is owed by just 63 elderly residents, all of whom have been assessed using government guidelines as able to pay fees determined by their capital and investment income.
Debts range from £10,000 to £40,000 and in some cases stretch back over three years.
Social services officer David Whitehead said the council would not hesitate to take court proceedings if no other way could be found of recovering the money: 'The county council has been extremely patient - on one instance 30 reminders have been ignored - but with some people, we seem to be getting nowhere and out patience is now exhausted.'
The social services committee is to consider charging interest on the debts at a commercial rate.