Citizens Advice Scotland (CAS) is today calling for a government review into the falling numbers of households claiming Council Tax Reduction, as new figures show the number of claims has fallen again.
Figures released by the Scottish Government today show that the number of homes claiming Council Tax Reduction fell between October 2019 and December 2019 from 470,420 to 468,150.
Around 80,000 fewer homes are claiming the reduction since the previous scheme was replaced in 2013.
CAS is concerned that the drop in households claiming in this quarter, along with the overall decrease of around 80,000 since the Council Tax Reduction replaced the previous scheme, is based on a lack of public awareness and is calling on the Scottish Government to investigate the reasons behind the fall in these numbers.
The charity is this week running its Council Tax: Check to Save campaign, encouraging people to visit www.checkmycounciltax.scot to see if they are entitled to an exemption, reduction or discount on their Council Tax.
Earlier this week the charity revealed the people who had turned to the Citizens Advice network for help with Council Tax debt held debts of £6.9 million, with the average debt three times the average bill.
Responding to the fall, CAS Financial Health spokesperson Myles Fitt said:
“We need to understand why the number of households not claiming this important saving on Council Tax bills has continued to fall since the Council Tax Reduction was introduced. We believe a lack of public awareness is a contributing factor and is also connected to people needing to make a claim themselves whereas the previous Council Tax Benefit was joined up alongside other benefits.
“We would like to see the Scottish Government undertake a review of these figures so we can better understand the reasons for the decline in the numbers.
“Council Tax debt is now the biggest debt issue we see in the Citizens Advice network in Scotland, and falling numbers of households claiming the reduction is a cause for concern.
“The average debt our clients are holding is three times the average bill, and we want more people to get help with their bills as well as the specialist debt advice we provide.
“That’s why we’re directing people towards www.checkmycounciltax.scot to see what they are could be saving. People should remember that these savings are paid for by central government – it doesn’t take money away from local services.
“The squeezed cost of living is a huge problem in Scotland so our message to people is simple; check to see if you could be saving on your Council Tax.”
Notes to editors
In 2019 the Citizens Advice network helped 2,250 people with Council Tax debt totalling £6,908,525.67, working out to an average debt of £3,102.46.