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"Many families have had the rug pulled from under them as help paying council tax has been withdrawn.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.