DORSET County Council's finance chief insists the levels of debt it is carrying is perfectly normal for an organisation of its size.

The Echo revealed earlier this week that the council's debts were close to £12million, with more than £450,000 written off in the last year.

Director for corporate resources Paul Kent told a meeting of the council's audit and scrutiny committee that the debt level was nothing to be concerned about.

He said: “The reality is an organisation of this size with £112m of income every year is going to have at any one point in time at least around £8m or £9m outstanding.”

Mr Kent explained to the committee that around £8m of the debt currently owed to the council was less than 30 days old and there was nothing to suggest that the vast majority of it would not be recovered in the near future.

He said: “These are issues we have just invoiced for and people are still to pay.”

Mr Kent said it was important to send a message out to the council's debtors that the authority was still taking appropriate and proper measures to recover any outstanding payments.

He did admit that the last year had been 'exceptional' in terms of the amount of debt written off, with a total of £454,000 compared to an average of around £200,000 a year.

Mr Kent explained that around £270,000 of that related to debts to adult and community services that were dating back several years and should have been written off some time ago.

He said that the debts related to 371 different clients, so some of the individual amounts were quite small, and dated back to before 2009.

Mr Kent said: “These debts should have been written off years ago.

“We felt we had no alternative to write off what were essentially old debts.”

Councillors backed Mr Kent's views that the debts levels should not cause any alarm.

Cllr Peter Wharf said: “These debts as a proportion of our income are pretty standard across the industry.

“I don't view this as bad news.”

In relation to the debts that have already been written off, Mr Wharf added: “There are times when you just say the cost of debt collection massively exceeds the actual debt.”