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Council tax debt in Scotland

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Council tax arrears. One of the fastest growing debt problems

Council tax arrears are one of the fastest growing debt problems that StepChange Debt Charity Scotland has seen in the last five years. This report examines the data behind those Scottish clients who seek our help with their council tax arrears in order to get a clearer picture of the extent of the problem in Scotland.

We're advising a much greater proportion of clients with arrears on their essential bills, like rent, energy and council tax. If people are struggling to pay their essential bills, it's a sign of just how difficult day-to-day living has become for many Scottish households. Many take out additional credit – often high cost credit – to keep up and spiral very quickly into problem debt.

Our key findings about council tax arrears in Scotland

  • Since 2010, the proportion of StepChange Debt Charity Scotland clients with council tax arrears has doubled, from 18% to 36%
  • The amount owed in council tax arrears by StepChange Debt Charity Scotland clients has also increased 43% over the same period, from £1,130 in 2010 to £1,615 in 2015
  • Council tax arrears rising along with rent and utility arrears, indicating just how difficult day-to-day living is becoming for Scots
  • Local Authorities are using though, threatening action against people with council tax debts and it’s affecting their health
  • More than two-thirds (70%) of StepChange Debt Charity Scotland clients with council tax arrears reported an increase in stress and anxiety.
  • Only 7% of clients reported that Local Authorities recommended seeking debt advice to help tackle their council tax arrears
  • Dual-billing of council tax and water/sewage causes confusion particularly for those clients receiving Council Tax Reduction

Our evidence suggests that Local Authorities could be better informed about the wider, longer term costs of tough enforcement action over sustainable, affordable payments. Councils should be made to take a balanced, proportionate approach to arrears collection, as well as actively promoting free debt advice for indebted constituents.

Download the report now for the full picture. 

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