Manchester, UK -- (SBWIRE) -- 01/31/2014 -- A new Council Tax Advice Service has been launched by leading debt solutions provider SimpleFS.co.uk to help householders deal with consequences of Council Tax arrears.
Since the Government introduced cuts to means-tested council tax relief in April 2013, the country has seen around 30% increase in court proceedings related to non-payment of council tax in local authorities that withdrew their public assistance. This amounts to about 670,000 people facing bailiff action in the first six months of 2014.
Around 10% or 500m pounds was cut from the means-tested council tax benefit when it was first implemented, and many people who were previously exempt from paying council tax are now finding it impossible to find the extra from their household budgets to cover the new bill every month.
A spokesperson from SimpeFS.co.uk said: “Council Tax debt is treated differently from all other types of unsecured debt in that it cannot be written off and must eventually be paid in full. But when you’re already on a reduced income this can seem almost impossible to achieve in reality. Because of this, an increasing number of people are falling further and further behind in their payments, leading to court orders and bailiff visits.
“The new Council Tax Advice Service will provide practical help and advice to people about how to deal with their council tax debts, what to expect if they cannot pay and how to deal with bailiffs visits. Our experienced advisers can offer a sympathetic ear and talk people through the options available to them given their circumstances.”
A survey by anti-cuts campaigners has revealed that around 25 people a day are being issued with liability orders in those areas where council tax support has been withdrawn, while less than half of that number are being issued in areas that have maintained the support.
Over 20% of residents in Haringey who have not previously paid council tax because they were classed as poverty-stricken will now have to pay a fifth of their council tax bill, or around 200 pounds a year. For those who cannot pay and fall into arrears, the councils will also add a fine of between 75-125 pounds on top plus the costs of bailiffs if they are employed.
A spokesperson for Haringey council said: “Direct support from government for council tax reduction schemes reduces year on year. It would simply not be sustainable for the council to absorb the cost of the government's cut, especially when already faced with reductions in government grant of around 144m pounds up to 2016. Increasing council tax to cover the shortfall would have meant placing extra burden on thousands of hard-pressed local families."
The report can be read here.
The Local Government Association said: “[Members] have been pushed into an impossible position by the government's cut in funding for council tax support. This comes on top of the 43% cut to local government funding and as a result many councils have been left unable to protect those who can least afford to pay."
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