A TAXI driver who has racked up thousands in council tax debt said he is struggling to make payments because business is “going downhill and only getting worse”.

Newton Aycliffe Magistrates’ Court heard that Michael Anderson was given a suspended prison sentence in 2016 for non-payment of council tax in the amount of £2,846.

The conditions of the suspension were that he pay £20 per week until all arrears were paid back – something which he has failed to do, resulting in him being recalled to court twice.

Victoria Nelson, prosecuting on behalf of Durham County Council, said: “In September 2016 a District Judge sentenced Mr Anderson to 90 days in prison suspended with a payment agreement after he was found guilty of culpable neglect.

“Since then he has again fallen into arrears for the outstanding debt and he has made no contributions to this year’s council tax liability.”

The Northern Echo: Michael Anderson, of Brandon, Durham, outside of Newton Aycliffe Magistrates' CourtMichael Anderson, of Brandon, Durham, outside of Newton Aycliffe Magistrates' Court

Sam Brewster, representing Anderson, said: “He is a taxi driver by trade, in Durham where business is slow. He tells me that it is going down hill and only getting worse.

“He said there have been occasions where he has driven around all night and not made a fair. It’s fair to say that money is tight.

“Payments have been missed but they have also been made, if he misses a payment one week then he pays double the week after. He is trying.”

Suzzanne Chivers, chair of the bench, said: “It seems to us that every time you’re in court there’s a last ditch attempt to bring the account up to date so it’s not as bad when you’re in front of us.

“It’s not acceptable. If this happens again you will be going out the back door. If I see you in court again I will activate your prison sentence.

“Every body else pays council tax.”

Anderson, of Laburnum Park, Brandon, Durham, was given 90 days in prison suspended on the agreement that he continue to pay £20 per week.