Scots owe millions of pounds in council tax, prominent charity reveals

The charity has urged people to check if they are eligible for a reduction in council tax, which should save them an average of 700 every year. Picture: PA
The charity has urged people to check if they are eligible for a reduction in council tax, which should save them an average of 700 every year. Picture: PA
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Scots owe millions of pounds in council tax, with the average person in debts they were seeking help for owing almost £2,000, figures from a prominent charity have revealed.

Citizens Advice Scotland (CAS) says 3,399 people sought its help over council tax debts averaging £1,900 in 2018/19 – a cumulative £6.4 million.

This is significantly higher than the average annual council tax payment of £1,147, according to Scottish Government figures.

CAS has urged people to check if they are eligible for a reduction in council tax, which should save them an average of £700 every year.

Myles Fitt, CAS’s financial health spokesman, said: “The Citizens Advice network in Scotland helps hundreds of thousands of people every year and we are largest provider of free debt advice in the country.

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“A significant issue for the people who come to us for help is council tax debt, with people owing a cumulative £6.4m to local authorities.

“That works out to around £1,900 per person on average, a sum larger than most people’s council tax bill in total.”

Figures released by the Scottish Government for June showed 9,210 fewer households were claiming council tax reduction (CTR) compared to June last year. Almost 80,000 fewer households were claiming relief through the scheme compared to April 2013 when the new initiative was introduced.

Mr Fitt said: “This debt is also set against a landscape where fewer households are claiming council tax reduction (CTR) compared to the old scheme.

“That’s why Citizens Advice Scotland built an online tool to let people check if they are eligible for council tax savings, including CTR. We want more people to access the scheme and cut their bills as a result.

“Local authorities should also ensure that they have systems in place to help people who have difficulties paying council tax from getting into problem debt.”

Nationwide problem

Previous research for CAS found around a quarter of working people in Scotland who ran out of money before payday missed making their council tax payment as a result.

Nearly half a million households in Scotland received a reduction in council tax in March this year, according to official figures.

A total of 477,800 households were supported by the CTR scheme.

Of all CTR recipients in March this year, 58 per cent (275,800 recipients) were in one of the 30 per cent most deprived areas in Scotland.

Just over 37 per cent (175,240 recipients) were aged 65 or over, while 16 per cent (78,180 recipients) were lone parents.

Glasgow City Council had the highest number of CTR recipients in March with 88,660 householders, while the lowest number was in Shetland with 1,070.

Edinburgh City Council had 33,460 recipients, while North Lanarkshire had a total of 36,330.

CAS launched a new tool at www.checkmycounciltax.scot in May to help people check if they are eligible for council tax savings.