More people late in paying council tax
THERE has been an explosion in the number of people being summoned to court for late payments of council tax.
The numbers have shot up by more than 60 per cent in one year.
Figures from a Freedom of Information request by the Adver have show that at the end of September, 7,592 council tax summonses had been issued compared with 4,930 the same time last year.
Chairman of the Swindon Tenants’ Campaign Group, Martin Wicks, said the spike in people falling into arrears is linked to the introduction of the controversial under-occupancy subsidy which dubbed the bedroom tax and condemned by United Nations official Raquel Rolnik.
People are summonsed as a final resort after three letters have been sent out by the council asking for the tenant to pay the tax.
Mr Wicks said: “Some of these people will be tenants affected by bedroom tax ,but I wouldn’t like to guess how many.”
He has collected a petition of more than 2,000 signatures, calling for the council to lobby the Government to scrap the tax.
“These people are suffering a double whammy – the worst affected are those on Job Seekers’ Allowance who have been hit with extra council tax as well as the bedroom tax.”
He said sending out summonses was a crude and heavy way of getting payments as this meant people were forced to not only pay the rent bills which they are already struggling to manage, but additionally forced to pay court costs.
Brian Shakespeare, who is also a member of the group, said there had been a massive explosion in the number of people in rent arrears.
“I have spoken with many people, most of them women, in tears because they cannot pay their rent,” said Brian.
“Invariably once people appear in court they then have an attachment order added to their wages or benefits to pay the money.
“In the worst case scenario people have had bailiffs round to their homes.”
Leader of the council David Renard said it was a large increase in the number of people falling behind on payments, but the council had put money aside for people who are struggling to pay their rents.
“The issue really is how many people can’t pay or won’t pay,” said Coun Renard.
“A fund has been put aside to help those who were struggling who meet certain criteria like the disabled.
The majority of people are contributing 20 per cent towards their council tax. The situation is largely the same up and down the country.”
The MP for South Swindon, Robert Buckland said he would like to see changes made to the way people get their benefits with provisions being put in place for certain people to have their rent paid directly by the council rather than indirectly.
“While I’m concerned to hear of the increase in the figures I think a lot is to do with the general changes to the benefit systems rather than being to do with the under occupancy subsidy,” said Mr Buck-land.
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