THE number of people seeking help on how to pay council tax bills that they cannot afford is continuing to increase, according to the Citizen’s Advice Bureau.
It says that on a national level, council tax arrears have risen to become the most common type of debt problem, with the bureau in East Staffordshire also reporting a steady increase in the number of people looking for advice.
Government welfare changes in April 2013 have meant that council tax benefit was replaced by a council tax support scheme, which is instead run by local authorities. It also cut the budget for the scheme by 10 per cent, stating that the benefit had been costing taxpayers £4 billion a year.
The level of support offered now differs from council to council, with people that are registered benefits claimants often struggling to pay what they owe.
The Citizen’s Advice Bureau is now calling for local councils throughout the UK to make sure that help is given to the families who are most in need of financial support.
Dawn Green, chief executive of East Staffordshire Citizen’s Advice Bureau (pictured) told the Mail that she has noticed a gradual increase in the number of people looking for help on how to pay their arrears, with those claiming Jobseekers’ Allowance.
She said: “On the whole there has been an increase in the number of clients contacting us looking for help, especially those who are currently claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance and are in the assessment phase. They are now obliged to pay 25 per cent of their council tax bill following the reforms brought in by the government last year.”
“Between quarters two and three last year we saw a 16 per cent increase in the number of enquiries from people contacting us about council tax arrears.
“Then, between quarters three and four, there was a 31 per cent increase, which shows that it is becoming a concern to us. We haven’t got any figures for this year yet, but it could go up further.”