THIRTY-FOUR people have been sentenced to prison for not paying their council tax in Bradford in the past two years.

The new figures include seven single parents, it has been revealed.

Six of the 34 people sentenced to prison by the courts did not serve their sentence after paying their council tax debts in full. This included three of the single parents.

The figures were revealed by the authority in response to a question by a local councillor, Michelle Swallow (Lab, Clayton and Fairweather Green).

Cllr Swallow said information gathered through her day job, at debt charity Christians Against Poverty, had prompted her to ask the question, as she feared people weren’t being given enough time or support to pay their debts.

Cllr Swallow said she feared for the human cost of locking people up - especially parents - when they simply could not afford to pay their bills.

She said: “From a purely financial perspective, it doesn’t make sense to throw someone with children into prison because somebody has got to pay for that.

“But also from a sense of morality, what does it do to those kids?

“There are going to be those who will not pay because they don’t want to pay and I appreciate tough measures must be taken in some circumstances.

“But I would hope that for the love of God there has got to be some perspective and we are not throwing the book at people.”

A spokesman for Bradford Council said anyone who fell behind with their bills would be sent a first reminder, then a second reminder, and then if they still hadn’t paid would be sent a summons.

The Council can then enforce payment of the debt through various means, including telling an employer to remove earnings form pay packets, or sending out enforcement agents - bailiffs - to recover the money.

The spokesman said if an enforcement agent was unable to recover the debt, and only if another way of enforcing payment was not appropriate, the authority would make an application to the Magistrates’ Court for the person’s commitment to prison, which could be for up to three months.

Cllr Swallow had asked at the last Full Council meeting how many of those sentenced to prison had been given time to get debt counselling or advice.

Leader of the Council, Councillor Susan Hinchcliffe, had said the Council funded a Citizens’ Advice Bureau advisor and anyone who wanted to pay would be given support to pay.