Removal of council tax support puts extra pressure on squeezed budgets
As the Public Accounts Committee releases a new report on council tax, Citizens Advice highlights the difficulties many households face under the new localised support scheme.
Gillian Guy, Chief Executive at Citizens Advice, said:
"Many families have had the rug pulled from under them as help paying council tax has been withdrawn. In April 2013, when the national scheme ended, 37,000 people sought online help from Citizens Advice about council tax – 87 per cent higher than the same period in 2012. Council tax debt is likely to grow following the withdrawal of support. No one doubts the enormous pressure councils are under from budget cuts, but the struggle for families to make ends meet and keep a roof over their head can become unbearable.
“In the past year Citizens Advice dealt with more than 150,000 problems of council tax debt. If local authorities feel that raising the amount people pay for council tax is the only option then they must find ways of targeting the support to the people who will be least able to meet the extra cost. Far too often, aggressive behaviour by bailiffs working on behalf of councils to collect debt can make the stress of debt an emotional trauma for families struggling to keep up with payments.
“The Government needs to ensure that work pays for everyone under a reformed benefit system and that wider welfare reforms are not going to cause even more problems for people who will already struggle with the move onto Universal Credit.”
A report earlier this year from the Institute for Fiscal Studies highlighted how introducing substantial minimum council tax payments led to increases of 30–40% in the number of people seeking advice from Citizens Advice Bureaux about council tax debt in July–September 2013.
Notes to editors:
- The Citizens Advice service comprises a network of local bureaux, all of which are independent charities, the Citizens Advice consumer service and national charity Citizens Advice. Together we help people resolve their money, legal and other problems by providing information and advice and by influencing policymakers. For more see the Citizens Advice website.
- The advice provided by the Citizens Advice service is free, independent, confidential, and impartial, and available to everyone regardless of race, gender, disability, sexual orientation, religion, age or nationality.
- To find your local bureau in England and Wales, visit citizensadvice.org.uk. You can also get advice online at adviceguide.org.uk
- You can get consumer advice from the Citizens Advice consumer service on 03454 04 05 06 or 03454 04 05 05 for Welsh language speakers
- Citizens Advice Bureaux in England and Wales advised 2.3 million clients on 5.4 million problems from October 2013 to September 2014. For full 2013/2014 service statistics see our quarterly publication Advice trends
- Citizens Advice service staff are supported by more than 21,000 trained volunteers, working at over 3,000 service outlets across England and Wales.