Social Justice

Government must fix council tax benefits, charity says, as millions pushed into debt

Citizens Advice has urged the government to fix council tax support and ensure it is properly funded as bills rise this month

council tax support/ houses

Households across the country are facing council tax bills going up this month. Image: Unsplash

Council tax support is a “broken postcode lottery” that has fuelled a surge in council tax debt, Citizens Advice has warned.

The charity helped more than 90,000 people with issues related to council tax support last year, a 6% increase on 2022. 

It comes as millions of people see hikes averaging around 5% to their council tax bill.

Council tax support is designed to help low-income households, but Citizens Advice has said that years of underfunding from central government has led to a “broken” system.

The scheme replaced council tax benefit in 2013, with help for paying council tax in England becoming localised. Council tax debt has doubled since then.

Nearly half (48%) of debt clients who receive council tax support are in arrears, but debt is more likely in areas where council tax support is limited.

People whose local authorities require all working-age adults to pay a proportion of their council tax bill, regardless of income, are 57% more likely to be in council tax debt.

Dame Clare Moriarty, chief executive of Citizens Advice, said: “How politicians tackle living standards will be a key battleground in the forthcoming election. 

“People on the lowest incomes should be able to access support that works, but our evidence makes clear that the system is a broken postcode lottery.”



Most councils offer a less generous scheme than the old council tax benefit and it is not always compatible with universal credit.

Both universal credit and council tax support are tapered when people earn more, which makes it less worthwhile for people to increase their income through working.

Additionally, Citizens Advice has found that millions of people are missing out because of factors such as digital exclusion and lack of awareness.

Moriarty added: “The government must fix council tax support and ensure it’s properly funded. Without urgent action, the latest bill hikes will push many more into debt.”

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