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Council tax debt in Scotland: a growing problem 

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Council tax arrears in Scotland. 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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Our research and reports

As the UK's leading debt charity, we want to make millions more people aware of the help that StepChange Debt Charity offers. Take a look at our research on household and consumer debt for leading insights on problem debt across the UK.

Helping you become debt free...

“I wish to thank your staff for all the great help they gave me when I was in so much debt.
They were a pillar of support to me.” (Leslie, Essex)

Foundation for Credit Counselling Wade House, Merrion Centre, Leeds, LS2 8NG trading as StepChange Debt Charity and StepChange Debt Charity Scotland. A registered charity no.1016630 and SC046263. It is a limited company registered in England and Wales (company no:2757055). Authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority.

*This is the average rating of our service on Feefo by DMP and DRO clients three months into their solution.

© StepChange Debt Charity 2016