Saturday, 31 May 2014

Council Tax arrears soar

With new figures revealing that Council Tax arrears are now the most common type of debt problem, Cunninghame South MSP Margaret Burgess has highlighted the importance of the SNP’s Council Tax Reduction Scheme, which supports some of the poorest households.

Citizens Advice last week indicated that 27,000 people had approached them for help with Council Tax arrears in the first three months of 2014, an increase of 17% on the same period last year.

Margaret Burgess said, “The increase in arrears follows the UK Government’s decision to scrap Council Tax Benefit as part of its welfare cuts agenda. In contrast, the SNP Scottish Government has used our limited powers to work with the Confederation of Scottish Local Authorities to fund the Council Tax Reduction Scheme, which helps thousands of people in North Ayrshire.

“The figures are a damning indictment of Westminster’s decision to scrap Council Tax Benefit – which pulled the rug from underneath half a million people in Scotland who relied on it to help pay their bills. That is exactly why the SNP Government and CoSLA stepped in to take action and put in place a support package to help protect people in Scotland.”

Mrs Burgess, also the Scottish Government’s Minister for Housing and Welfare, argued, “This shows the importance of having decision-making powers in Scotland, but it also shows the limits of devolution.

“The Scottish Government and local councils, like North Ayrshire, are having to use funding intended for other services to mitigate the impact of Westminster decisions.

“The SNP’s Council Tax Reduction Scheme is protecting over half a million people in Scotland from the abolition of Council Tax Benefit – that's pensioners, families, single person households and disabled people who need help to pay their bills.

“This shows that where we can, the SNP is mitigating the worst excesses of Westminster’s welfare cuts – but with the full powers of independence we won’t be limited to mitigation. With a ‘YES’ vote we can get on with the job of creating a fairer welfare system that works in Scotland’s interests – rather than punishing the poorest people in our society.”

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