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MORE than 50,000 poor Scots have had their council tax raised in spite of SNP promises to exempt them, new figures showed yesterday.
From April last year the Scottish government steeply increased council tax for higher-value properties.
At the same time it introduced a new benefit to offset the changes for affected low-income families. Ministers said 54,000 households would be eligible and up to a third of them are believed to be pensioners.
But responses to Freedom of Information requests by 28 out of 32 Scottish councils showed only 1,998 households claiming the benefit.
Labour said the SNP government was failing to help Scotland’s poor.
“Over 50,000 households were meant to benefit from this exemption from higher council tax charges, but just a handful actually are,” Scottish Labour social security spokesman Mark Griffin said.
“Struggling families and pensioners are missing out on key support and facing massive council tax bills as a result.”
Orkney and Shetland councils reported that not a single household had claimed the benefit. A further seven authorities gave responses with single figures.
The Scottish government said it had “invested more than £1 billion” in its previous council tax reduction scheme, assisting “more than 500,000 households” across Scotland.
“We are taking forward bold measures to tackle the underlying causes of poverty and inequality, from our recently passed Child Poverty Act, which establishes Scotland as the only part of the UK with targets to tackle child poverty, to our Fairer Scotland Action Plan,” a government spokesman said.
“We encourage anyone who thinks they might be eligible for either the council tax reduction or the low income household exemption to contact their local authority.”
But Mr Griffin claimed it was Labour that “pushed the SNP into doing more work to ensure everyone gets the benefits that they are entitled to” and the figures showed “just how little” the government was doing.
“We need to see more action from the SNP to boost take-up and getting people the support they deserve,” he said.
The Star understands the Scottish government has spent £300,000 on a campaign to boost benefit take-up, which was launched last year.
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