THE amount of unpaid council tax written off in Worcester has plunged a staggering 50 per cent in one year, it has emerged.

Newly published data show hows the amount of unpaid household and business rates totalled £277,000 over the last year.

Your Worcester News can reveal how the write-offs - which impact upon the city council, fire service, police and county council - involved 256 different people.

It included householders who refused to pay, many of whom were taken to court, people who disappeared without trace or died and business owners who went bust.

The write-offs compare to a whopping £562,000 from 2012/13, a figure which led to fierce criticism.

The improvements follow an action plan being enacted, which included sending out earlier reminder letters and court summons to people who miss payments, as well as extra efforts to negotiate staggered repayments.

Councillor Richard Boorn, who was the cabinet member responsible for the city's finances during the last financial year, said: "Ultimately I looked at it from a business perspective - if someone owes me money I'm always very keen to ensure I get it.

"If someone can't pay then there has to be a problem - but rather than use a sledgehammer to crack a nut it's often best to talk to them and offer a payment plan.

"The first thing I did when I was in control of it was ask for a list of write-offs, I found most householders were as good as gold but in many cases, it was businesses - and those non-payments can cause you problems as they are often such large amounts.

"You could argue the economy has also helped."

In 2011/12 £297,000 was written off, and in 2010/11 it totalled £760,000 after the council decided to lump together an historic list of unpaid taxes.

All of the write-offs are kept on a database which still allows for historic debts to be chased if any new information comes to light on them.

The old Labour administration increased council tax by 1.9 per cent back in February, the biggest rise possible without staging a referendum.

The city council's new Conservative leadership has already signalled that it wants to freeze it next year to help hard-pressed householders.