AN Aldershot woman and a man from Farnborough were each given 28 day suspended prison sentences by Aldershot magistrates for not paying last year's council tax bills.

Miss Lisa Percy, of Denmark Square, and Paul Gambrill, of Beta Road, Farnborough, had their sentences suspended on condition that they clear their debts at a weekly rate.

They were among 48 householders summonsed for non-payment. Of these nine handed over £8,400 on the day to clear their debts and eight were ordered to have the tax deducted from their wages. Seventeen people failed to turn up and arrest warrants were issued for their appearance in court at a later date.

Ian Harrison, Rushmoor's Head of Revenue Services, urged people who had not paid to contact the council immediately to make arrangements for payment.

"Taking people to court is a last resort for us and we'd rather reach an agreement," he said. "We understand that people do have genuine hardships, but we cannot help if they do not get in touch."

Coun. Alan Ferrier, Cabinet Member for Corporate Services, commented: "This isn't our money we are collecting but public money and we have a duty to protect the public purse. We also have a moral responsibility to be fair to the vast majority of residents who did pay their council tax bills."