The Scottish government has blamed the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and UK government’s “welfare cuts” for a shocking increase in legal action over council tax arrears.
The DWP: under fire
As STV reported, official figures show that, in five years, there has been a 38% increase in the number of warrants issued by courts for council tax arrears. Action that authorities take against people under these warrants includes deductions from wages and sending bailiffs to take personal belongings.
According to STV, courts issued 463,729 warrants relating to council tax in 2016/17. This was up 38% on the 337,089 warrants they issued in 2011/12. And the Scottish government seems to think it knows where the blame should lie for this.
It told STV:
We know that, under UK Government welfare cuts, money is being taken from the pockets of low income families, pushing them into crisis, debt and poverty. We are spending more than £127m this year to try and mitigate that, and provide vital support for low income households.
A devastating policy
Meanwhile, as BBC News reported, bailiffs were involved in 1.38m council tax arrears cases in England and Wales in 2016/17. This has all come after the Coalition government cut funding for council tax benefit by 10% in 2013.
In January 2014, after the 2013 cut, Dawn Foster wrote in the Guardian:
As more people struggle to keep up with payments, the courts will find more and more of the poorest in society in their courtrooms… Labour estimated that 450,000 vulnerable people had been summonsed as a result of the withdrawal in council tax benefit, and many more have been summonsed since.
It could well be that we’re now seeing the full force of this policy.