A PLEA has been made to a North-East university to up its contribution to the public purse after it emerged more than £7m was "lost" each year because students do not pay council tax.

According to a Freedom of Information request, carried out by the City of Durham Parish Council, the value of student exemptions from council tax across County Durham amounts to £7.4m this year.

Parish councillor Roger Cornwell revealed the figure at last week's conference on antisocial behaviour in the city, when he called for Durham University to do more to plug the funding gap.

He said: "Seven million pounds is lost a year because of student exemptions from paying council tax. We are trying to get the government to change the law to make students liable for that.

"That's the sort of figure Durham University needs to think about putting into the public coffers. It's about time the university upped what they pay by an order of magnitude."

When asked about its financial contributions to public services, Hannah Shepherd, the university's community liaison officer, said: "We are increasing the resources around this. It’s not obvious to everyone all the time but we are aware of the pressure which is why we make this contribution.

“We’re increasing the contribution to neighbourhood wardens and we are in the final stages of signing off on a neighbourhood warden to deal with student issues.”

Pro-vice chancellor Jeremy Cook, who also attended the conference, added the university also paid a “not insignificant” contribution to the salary of a police constable position.

In the City of Durham parish area there are about 9,000 "permanent residents" and about 18,000 students.

According to the FOI, the value of exemptions for purpose built student accommodation (PBSA) was about £0.625m while the value of exemptions for other properties solely occupied by full time students was £6.8m.

Last month, the parish council wrote to the government to ask for a change on law to tackle "unfairness" in funding for cities with large student populations

A letter from clerk Adam Shanley said: "Whilst students rely on and use public services, they do not pay council tax.

"The parish council welcomes students and we all want to see Durham University continue as a world leader in further education, but this must not be at the detriment of other residents and the services they rely on."

In response, Rhys Tomlinson, from the local taxation office, said: "The Government recognises concerns that student exemptions might be seen to create a shortfall in income for local authorities.

"The Local Government Finance Settlement – the annual determination of how much funding will be available to principal authorities – takes into account the impact of student exemptions on authorities’ income based on the amount of student accommodation in their area.

"Where functions are devolved to parishes, the Government expects principal authorities and parish councils to engage in constructive and collaborative dialogue to agree an appropriate level of funding to be transferred."

In 2017, Durham MP Roberta Blackman-Woods, said student landlords should be charged a business rate to make-up revenue lost to Durham County Council because of student exemptions.