DEBTS worth nearly £600,000 have been written off by Herefordshire Council - with unpaid business rates making up much of the total.

New figures show that between November and March, the council wrote off £437,000 in debts over £2,000 - the threshold that requires a report from the chief financial officer.

Over the same period, £152,000 worth of debts under £2,000 were written off, taking the overall total to £589,000.

Debts written off by the council represent a very low proportion of income collected with council tax raising £81 million and business rates £45 million.

The council's finance procedure rules stipulate that authorisations for writing off debt over £20,000 mean the chief finance officer seeking agreement from the relevant cabinet for resources.

Five cases came into that category between November-March including:

- £169,000 in business rates due from  four companies that went into receivership with no monies available for distribution to creditors.

- £32,000 relating to council tax owed on a number of properties due to the bankruptcy of the landlord.

Where debts of over £2,000 were involved the council wrote off:

- 30 cases related to business rates (of which 50 per cent goes to central government) worth £328,000.

- 11 cases of unpaid council tax together worth £55,000.

-  Five cases representing £30,000 of "general debt".

-  Seven cases of benefit overpayment totalling £24,000.

Debts  are  only  written  off once  full  debt  recovery processes are completed, occasionally debt previously written off becomes payable if  the  debtors  circumstances  change.

Though the council works  with  statutory  bodies, legal processes can take months, even  years, to conclude before a write off is sanctioned.