NON-PAYMENT of council tax is not a victimless crime. People who deliberately avoid paying their taxes to local government shift the cost onto honest folk who do.

In England and Wales council tax fraud costs councils - and ultimately taxpayers - a whopping £130m a year.

Councils have the powers to go after tax dodgers to recover unpaid bills but sometimes this may not be possible.

By their very nature council tax evaders are hard to pin down. Fraudsters move addresses frequently, rarely give the correct details and can almost never be found on the electoral roll.

So sometimes local authorities have no choice but to write off council tax debt.

In Bradford’s case the council has written off more than £18 million of unpaid council tax in the last five years. That’s money the council could have used to pay for libraries, fix potholes or keep essential services running.

We all have a role to play in preventing council tax fraud.

If you suspect someone you know if gaming the system make sure you report it. The council needs taxpayers to be its eyes and ears on the ground.

The only effective way to drive down the rate of fraud is to increase the chances of a tax dodger being found out because sufficient punishments already exist. Nearly 100 people have been sent to prison for non-payment in the Bradford district in the past five years.

But the courts can only act if we identify fraudsters and make sure they are made to answer for their crimes.