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Charity calls for reforms of “outdated” council tax collection rules

More than seven million people in Britain are worried they will not be able to afford their council tax bills over the next year, according to new research from the Money Advice Trust.

The charity is calling for more help for people struggling to pay in the wake of Covid-19.

 

Findings from the charity’s report highlight that some vulnerable groups are most at risk of falling behind on their council tax, with people with disabilities or long-term health conditions three times more likely to be in arrears.

 

The findings come as latest government figures show that council tax arrears in England have reached record levels, with over £4.4bn owed.

 

The Money Advice Trust is calling for urgent reform to current council tax collection rules and a permanent increase in funding for local council tax support in England, so that councils can provide support for up to 100% of council tax bills for those unable to pay. Funding for this purpose was introduced as a temporary measure for Covid-19.

 

The charity says that without these changes, the current system of council tax collection and support is unsustainable for the struggling households and local authorities that are under increased financial pressure in the wake of the pandemic.

 

The charity’s recommendations include:

  • Continuing increased funding for councils to provide 100% council tax support schemes to eligible households;
  • Reforming “outdated” council tax collection rules, to prevent the rapid escalation of debt and ensure people in debt are treated fairly;
  • Local authorities exempting residents who receive Council Tax Support from bailiff action.

Joanna Elson CBE, chief executive of the Money Advice Trust, said: “With seven million worried about affording their council tax bills in the next year and council tax arrears reaching crisis point, urgent action is required to help people struggling to pay.

 

“The current system of council tax collection and support isn’t working for anyone. Without the permanent funding needed to provide 100% council tax support for those who need it, local authorities are taking the costly route of attempting to collect partial amounts from people who simply cannot afford to pay.

 

“This not only leaves councils with limited to no returns on the tax they need to fund vital local services, but risks a swift escalation of debt problems for households that are already struggling.”

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