2.3 Million People Suffer as Council Support Cuts 'Criminalise' Poverty, Says Debt Advice Company

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Local authority benefits cuts are causing hardship, poverty and financial ruin to some of the country's most in need, says new article on debt advice company Simple Financial Solution's website.

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People are being pushed deeper and deeper into financial trouble with little way out of the situation. Being threatened with court and possibly prison when you do not have the money to pay council tax arrears makes a bad situation even worse

Debt advice company Simple Financial Solutions announced today that they have posted a new article to their website which discusses how local authority benefits cuts are allegedly causing hardship, poverty and financial ruin to some of the country's most in need.

Over 2.3 million people have seen a reduction of part or all of their council tax support, as councils attempt to mitigate the Government slashing 10%, or half a billion pounds, from the benefits system. However, only the young, unemployed and low income face the brunt of the cuts as the Government has prevented councils from cutting the benefits to pensioners, states the article.

A Freedom of Information request to local authorities has revealed those who are now worse off include approximately 409,000 disabled individuals and 112,000 carers, as well as 3,600 war widows.

Council tax is one of the few living expenses that can result in court summons and even a prison sentence if arrears remain unpaid, effectively criminalising those who are poor. Records show that bailiff visits and home evictions due to unpaid council tax are rising rapidly, reports the article.

However, research by the New Policy Institute that was funded by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation has shown that those local authorities that have made the biggest cuts and charged higher 'minimum' council tax payments have seen big jumps in arrears and court costs while at the same time experiencing falling collection rates.

The fallout from the benefit cuts is all too clear for many front line charities and services as they struggle to keep up with demands for help and advice.

Gillian Guy, chief executive of the Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB), said: “Bills are still piling high for some people even as the economy looks brighter. We found three in five people are worried about rising bills this year and over half are cutting spending to cope. It is often the basic bills that people struggle to pay.”

“One in five people reporting debt problems to Citizens Advice has a council tax debt issue, which is now the number one debt problem we help with. The legacy of the recession has pushed more people toward high-cost short-term credit in order to pay their bills.”

Some local authorities have refused to pass on the cuts to the communities they serve, citing them as "regressive and cruel." Chief among these is Cheltenham Borough Council, which has vowed to find other ways to plug the gap in its finances.

Councillor John Rawson said: “We feel it would be not only unjust to cut the benefits to some of the poorest people in our community, but self-defeating as well. We would end up trying to get blood out of a stone and we would waste money chasing people for small debts that they cannot afford to pay.

A spokesperson for debt solutions provider Simple Financial Claims said: “It's been over around 18 months since the benefit cuts were brought in, and the situation is getting worse as people struggle to cope with less money.

“The media reports that the economic recovery is well under way, but many households have seen the exact opposite. Wages are not keeping pace with inflation, so people struggle to afford basics such as food and energy bills. Meanwhile, the government and local authorities keep piling on the pressure by cutting benefits, such as council tax and child benefit.

“People are being pushed deeper and deeper into financial trouble with little way out of the situation. Being threatened with court and possibly prison when you do not have the money to pay council tax arrears makes a bad situation even worse.”

About Simple Financial Solutions:

Simple Financial Solutions are one of the UK's leading financial advice companies. They provide everything from loans and mortgages through to life insurance and business debt advice. Visit them now at simplefs.co.uk.

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Lee Schwartz
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