NEARLY 4,000 council tax dodgers in Worcester have been slapped with court summons over the last year, it has emerged.

Your Worcester News can reveal how the amount of law-breaking householders brought to the attention of magistrates for not paying their bills has increased nearly 10 per cent.

Across the whole of the 2013/14 financial year 3,505 people were sent court summons for not paying their council tax, a tactic Worcester City Council insists is a last resort.

Fresh data to the end of March for the 2014/15 financial year puts the latest figure at 3,816.

The findings have led to a desperate plea for more people to seek help, with the authority saying it does not want householders to end up in court.

Although the data on the money recouped has not collated together in recent months, at least £250,000 has been grabbed back on behalf of taxpayers since 2013 by using summons and thousands have been handed liability orders from magistrates - meaning the culprits must pay it all back plus costs or risk being jailed.

A city council spokesman said: "As council tax is used to pay for essential services in the city it is important payments are made on or before the due date shown on the bill.

"Where payments are not made, we take prompt action to recover the unpaid amounts which can result in any outstanding debts going to court and they may then be passed on to enforcement agents to recover.

"We do understand that people can get into difficulties with payments, and advise that the most important thing to do in these circumstances is to contact us."

Worcester MP Robin Walker said: "Clearly, the council has to collect council tax but what this shows is that it's still a significant cost to people.

"When people who can afford to pay it do not do so, then it's tax avoidance and that has to be clamped down on.

"It's absolutely right the council chases that up but it's also right when people genuinely cannot pay that they seek help."

For people getting into problems with their bill, the city council is asking them to call the authority on 0300 4560 560.

Council tax bills have just been increased two per cent, taking the average band D bill in Worcester to £1,507 a year, although people in Warndon and St Peter's pay slightly more.