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Council Tax change could worsen position of financially vulnerable 

28 March, 2013

StepChange Debt Charity is raising serious concerns that the introduction of localised Council Tax support on April 1 risks further undermining the position of many financially vulnerable households. Prior to the changes taking effect the charity has already seen a dramatic increase in the proportion of its clients struggling with Council Tax arrears and believes the coming change could accelerate the problem and push a number of households into further financial difficulty. 

In 2011 just 8.7 percent of people seeking help from StepChange Debt Charity had Council Tax arrears, this rose to 13 percent last year. In the same period there have been similar increases in the numbers falling behind with other priority costs including rent and energy bills. The increases highlight the acute financial position of a growing number of households and how many are struggling to meet the basic cost of living.

StepChange Debt Charity believes that the changes represent a tax rise on some of the most vulnerable and will place unrealistic financial demands on households at a time when many are already struggling to make ends meet. 

As more people fall into Council Tax arrears, increased numbers will likely be subjected to enforcement action by bailiffs. At present around 1.5 million bailiff warrants are issued for unpaid Council Tax each year, this represents seven percent of all Council Tax accounts nationwide, illustrating the already serious nature of this problem. StepChange Debt Charity is urging local councils to avoid taking potentially aggressive enforcement action against those who are already facing extreme hardship and cannot afford to pay.

StepChange Debt Charity’s director of external affairs Delroy Corinaldi said: “Cutting support for poorer households at a time when falling incomes and rising living costs are pushing many into financial difficulty is extremely unhelpful. 

“Local councils need to address how they plan to protect those people facing acute short-term financial difficulty and not expose them to greater hardship through aggressive enforcement action”. 

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Email: press@stepchange.org

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