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Scots rack up £6.4m in council tax debt

People owed an average of nearly £2,000 each – while the number of households claiming council tax reduction is falling

Just 3,399 people in Scotland who have sought help for council tax debt owe a cumulative £6.4m between them, shocking new figures show.

Charity Citizens Advice Scotland (CAS) said those were just the people who came to them for guidance – meaning the real amount owed is likely much higher.

On average, each person they helped owed an average of £1,900 in 2018-19, significantly more than the average annual council tax bill of £1,147.

CAS is urging people to use their specially designed tool to check their eligibility for a council tax reduction, which in some cases could mean savings of £700 a year.

Myles Fitt, financial health spokesperson for the charity, said council tax debt is a “significant issue” for the people who go to them for help.

He added: “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.”

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Scottish Government figures showed that in June the number of households claiming council tax reduction had dropped by 9,210 since the previous year. In fact, 80,000 fewer households were paying the lowered council tax bill compared to in April 2013, when the scheme started.

According to Scottish government figures, 477,800 households claimed council tax reduction this year – most of which were in Glasgow, which had 88,660 claimants, compared to 33,460 in Edinburgh.

Citizens Advice in England and Wales said earlier this year that council tax arrears are the single most common problem people seek out their help for. One missed average payment could end up costing someone in those areas £2,065 within just nine weeks.