Charity flooded by calls for help with council tax arrears
National debt charity StepChange saw a massive 77% increase in the number of people needing help due to council tax arrears last year.
In a sign of household budgets being squeezed, the charity dealt with 45,561 people who were having problems paying their council tax in 2013, up from 25,500 in 2012.
Those struggling to keep up with their essential payments were on average £102 short of what they needed to cover their household bills each month.
StepChange chief executive Mike O'Connor said a factor in the rise was changes to the council tax system.
Last April, the government devolved responsibility over council tax to all councils across England and reduced the budget by 10%. Since then, around 70% of councils require all working-age claimants to make at least the minimum contribution to their council tax bill.
Earlier this week, the Public Accounts Committee criticised the changes, stating that up to 225,000 people had been discouraged to work as some people could lose as much as 97p for every extra £1 they earn.
The charity added that the state of the finances of people struggling to make ends meet could be made worse from next month when bailiff fees are set to go up. It said people could see their debts rise by as much as £310 because of bailiffs being instructed to visit someone's home.
StepChange chief executive Mike O'Connor said: "More and more people are struggling to pay essential household costs. Stagnating incomes, changing work patterns, rising living costs and changes in welfare benefits are a toxic combination," he said.
"Government, business and charities need to ensure that safety nets and protections are in place to ensure that short-term financial problems do not escalate into problem debt which can blight the lives of individuals, families and whole communities."
“Arrears” tend to be associated with debt. If you fall behind and miss payments on any outstanding debt, the amount you failed to pay is an arrear – the amount accrued from the date on which the first missed payment was due.