Welsh councils raising tax ‘must prevent household debt’

28 Feb 19

Welsh councils should ensure they take “early intervention” to stop more households falling into debt as they look to increase council tax next year, a think-tank has said.

A Wales Centre for Public Policy report, released today, said that councils are seeking “large increases” in their council tax for the coming year and it highlighted the importance of “personalised and proactive support for vulnerable citizens”.

Up to 67,600 of households in Wales have problem debt, according to the Office for National Statistics, with a greater number of them in arrears for their council tax or social housing rents than in previous years.

To prevent further debt issues, the report suggests building trust with citizens as soon as they begin paying council tax, identifying problems and acting on them as early as possible, and improving access to independent specialist help.

Although, the WCPP noted efforts to prevent household debt might be hampered by the difficulties in rolling-out universal credit.

Paul Worthington, author of the report, said: “While council tax rises of the scale proposed by many Welsh councils this year may well be unavoidable, much more can be done to support those most at risk of falling into debt as a result of larger bills.

“Some councils are already doing good work, but the advice and support on offer across Wales is too inconsistent. Councils should be learning from each other and striving to improve the way they support those vulnerable to debt.”  

Worthington also said that there was “a lot to be learned” about the way social landlords support their tenants who are at risk of rent arrears.

“While I have no doubt all councils and social landlords will want to learn from our report, the unanswered question is whether they’re even able to commit extra resource to this at a time when budgets are being further squeezed,” he added.

A recent survey found that nearly all English councils planned to increase council tax in the coming year.  

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