Council Tax and Energy Bills Causing Major Strife for Indebted Brits
October 9, 2018
Council taxes and energy bill arrears are among the two leading causes of debt problems across the UK, according to a new set of statistics on the subject.
The debt help charity StepChange has analysed its own figures for the first half of 2018 and found that around a third of its new clients during that period were behind with their council tax payments.
The figures also suggest that a growing number of UK consumers are finding it difficult or impossible to keep up with payments on their gas and electricity bills.
In the first half of last year, 11.4 per cent of people who contacted StepChange for the first time had energy bills outstanding, while this year the figure for those six months increased to 13.1 per cent.
Major energy suppliers have been increasing their rates in recent months, with some of the leading gas and electricity companies having done so twice so far this year.
StepChange wants to see energy companies giving their indebted customers chance to make their repayments on a more flexible basis but warns that a lot of people in financial difficulty are wary of the potential complexities involved in switching from their current energy tariff to find a cheaper alternative.
Meanwhile, council taxes were identified as being “by far the highest category of debt arrears” among new clients of StepChange during the six months between January and the end of June 2018.
The issue of council tax arrears is of particular concern to debt help charities due to the prevalence of poor practices among local authorities when it comes to debt collection enforcement.
“Council tax is especially concerning in light of mounting evidence that government debt collection practices are lagging far behind best practice,” said Phil Andrew, StepChange chief executive.
“Government must reflect on this evidence and ensure that government debt is included in the new statutory debt breathing space scheme. We are not convinced that the scheme can be effective if it is not.”
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