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EXPERT SAYS ACCOUNTS COMMISSION TARGETS ARE 'UNREALISTIC'

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A local government finance academic has criticised the Accounts Commission for setting councils 'unrealistic' targe...
A local government finance academic has criticised the Accounts Commission for setting councils 'unrealistic' targets for improving council and poll tax collection rates, reports The Herald (p6).

Professor Arthur Midwinter, of Strathclyde University, said that the methodology, which puts authorities into groups based on social deprivation and population density, was flawed and councils could not be expected to collect all of the additional money.

He said the commission did not quantify the effect of differences in local collection practices, but Steve Evans, director of value for money studies as the Accounts Commission disagreed.

He said professionals had been consulted about the approach used and that the commission was happy that there was potential for improvement.

'If we accepted the approach advocated by Prof Midwinter it would wrongly imply that there is little scope for improvement in collection levels in councils with high levels of social deprivation,' he said.

'The evidence from England is that councils can do relatively well whatever their levels of deprivation - for example, Liverpool collected 92% of council tax in 1996-97.'

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