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Almost 430,000 people missed a Council Tax payment last year

Almost 430,000 people have missed a council tax payment in the last year after running out of money before pay day, according to new analysis from Citizens Advice Scotland (CAS).

Polling by YouGov for the charity found that 32 per cent of people ran out of money before pay day in the last year. Of those people, 30 per cent missed a council tax payment as a result.

Based on Scotland’s population estimates this works out to 426,000 people.

The research defines ‘pay day’ as including payment day for pensions and benefits.

The figures come as a series of changes put increased pressure on household budgets across the country such as:

  • Increased risk of unemployment or reduced incomes following the end of the furlough
  • Rising energy bills
  • Universal Credit being reduced by £20 per week
  • Rising prices in the shops

Council tax debt is the biggest debt issue the Citizens Advice network sees each year. The charity is very concerned that these additional pressures will lead to more people struggling to pay council tax in the year to come and recently launched the   ‘Our Advice adds Up’ campaign encouraging people to seek advice to maximise their incomes, cut their cost of living and get help if in council tax arrears.

People can seek advice from the CAB network, or online through their public advice site  but they can also visit Citizens Advice Scotland’s online council tax savings tool to see if they are entitled to reduction, discounts or even exemptions on their council tax bill. If they want more general help with boosting incomes or making savings they can visit the charity’s Money Map tool at  

CAS Financial Health spokesperson Myles Fitt said:

“Council tax debt is the biggest debt issue the Citizens Advice network sees, and it’s concerning that so many people are missing payments because they have run out of money.

“The ending of furlough and other pandemic related financial support measures will have a significant impact on many but other emerging cost pressures are creating a perfect financial storm on household budgets this autumn, and there is real concern that more and more people will struggle to meet council tax payments as a result.

“If you need advice around bills and money, the Citizens Advice network has got you covered. We have a range of options for people to get advice from their local CAB, our online advice site, or through our online self-help tools for making savings on council tax or more generally by boosting incomes and cutting costs via  

“Our advice adds up to getting you the help and support you need.”



A link to audio on this story is available here:

The ‘Our Advice Adds Up’ campaign page is here:    

A ‘perfect storm’ for people

•        The energy price cap increased from 1 October for 15 million customers across the UK. Those on default tariffs paying by direct debit will see an increase of £139 from £1,138 to £1277. Prepayment customers will see an increase of £153 from £1,156 to £1309.

•        Universal Credit was cut by £20 per week – equivalent to £1,040 a year – on Wednesday 6 October

•        The furlough scheme finished at the end of September.

•        Official figures show that the increase in the cost of living, as measured by the Consumer Prices Index, hit 3.2% in the year to August. This is the biggest jump in prices since records began in 1997. 

Almost 430,000  people missed a council tax payment having run out of money

All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc.  Total sample size was 1032 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 20th - 25th May 2021.  The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all Scotland adults (aged 18+).

Polling for CAS by YouGov revealed 32 per cent of people running out of money before pay day, this works out to 1.42 million adults in Scotland, based on the latest population statistics:  

A further question was asked of people who had identified themselves as having ran out of money

Thinking specifically about the past year...How often, if at all, have you had to miss and/ or go without any of the following because you ran out of money? (Please select one option on each row) 

Q5_4. Council Tax payment


Unweighted base


Base: All Scottish adults who have run out of money before pay day




Once or twice


3 to 6 times


More than 6 times


Don't know


Not applicable - this does not apply to me


30 per cent of 1.42 million works out to 426,000 people.

All calculations to extrapolate the data to general population have been conducted by the CAS team. Margin of error will depend on the size of each groups of interest observed.