Up to 450,000 face court over council tax arrears

156,500 people in England have received summonses in response to the changes to benefits six months ago

Nigel Morris
Thursday 10 October 2013 23:06
Comments

More than 450,000 people could already have received a court summons because they have fallen into arrears with their council tax payments following changes to the system, it was claimed.

Ministers have been criticised over a decision to reduce spending on council tax benefit by £500m a year from April. The Government has told local authorities to decide who should lose the cash. Critics have warned that unemployed and low-paid families will be heavily affected as benefits to the elderly are protected. They have predicted the move will increase numbers of people struggling with unmanageable debts and the threat of visits from the bailiff.

Freedom of Information (FoI) responses from 112 English town halls have disclosed that 156,500 people have received summonses as a result of changes to council tax benefit six months ago. They included 11,830 disabled people, 2,153 carers, 59 veterans and 54 war widows.

As the FoI responses came from about one-third of the country’s councils, the number of people in England falling behind with payments because they have lost benefit could be more than 450,000, the shadow Communities Secretary Hilary Benn said. He said those facing court action, and even the threat of jail, could include 65,000 disabled people and 12,000 carers.

“This new poll tax is a disaster of David Cameron’s own making,” he said. “The failure to identify the number of people affected or to monitor the costs is negligent and irresponsible.” Brandon Lewis, the Minister for Local Government, said: “This shoddy survey is contradicted by official statistics, which show arrears have fallen in the last year.

“In the last year of the Labour government, three million summons were issued for unpaid council tax. The Coalition has taken action to help hard-working families by freezing council tax for up to five years.”

About six million people have all their council tax paid or are given some money towards it. The average payment is almost £16 a week. The Resolution Foundation think-tank has calculated that 3.2 million of the poorest households will see increases to their council tax bills.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged in