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Families on low incomes face paying more council tax, councils warn

by Matt Trinder, parliamentary reporter @TrinderMatt

LOW-INCOME families face paying more council tax from April without an extension to one-off government funding for local support schemes, local authorities warned today. 

Official figures show that more than 2.5 million working-age people across England had claimed a discount on their council tax bill between April and June this year — the highest number since records began in 2015. 

A record number of applications were made after the government provided £670 million to councils this financial year to help them give discounts to households struggling to pay their bills during the Covid-19 pandemic. 

But in response to the end of furlough, universal credit cuts and energy bill rises, the Local Government Association (LGA) has called on Chancellor Rishi Sunak to use this month’s spending review to continue the grants until 2024/25. 

Without an extension, already overstretched councils will be unable to provide council tax support to all those in need, the LGA stressed. 

Since 2013, local authorities in England have been running their own local schemes to help economically vulnerable households with council tax bills after the national benefit was abolished.

Central government funding support for these initiatives was slashed by about half, £2 billion, between 2013 and last year. 

As a result, councils have been left with an “unpalatable choice” between charging council tax to the working-age poor or diverting funding from under-pressure essential services to pay for discounts, the LGA said.

The body’s Shaun Davies said: “The spending review needs to provide councils with the full amount of funding required to avoid bills being forced up for those who can least afford to pay.”

A Treasury spokesperson claimed future budgets would allow local authorities to “continue to deliver on the public’s key priorities.”

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