Scotland facing debt crisis

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Council tax arrears have become the country's most prominent debt 

9th April 2019 by Robert Armour 0 Comments

A charity has warned that nearly 700,000 people in Scotland have problem debts.  

StepChange Scotland, a debt advisory charity, helped 30,000 people struggling with money issues last year.

It said council tax arrears were a problem for 46% of them.

The cost to the public purse was £750m, according to its newly published Scotland In The Red report.

StepChange wants local authorities to put in place "sustainable arrangements" that give people a "fair chance" to repay their debt.

It also wants the Scottish government to coordinate an action plan to address the crisis that is blighting many lives and businesses across Scotland.

Sharon Bell, head of StepChange Scotland, said she was "increasingly alarmed by the increases in the proportion of our clients who are struggling with household bills, particularly council tax".

Research by the charity "shows that our clients in Scotland are significantly more likely to have council tax arrears compared to elsewhere in the UK", she added, with the average amount of council tax arrears being £2,017.

StepChange Scotland estimated the social cost of problem debt amounts was about £750m, with public services having to deal with mental health problems caused and exacerbated by debt, and demand for housing help.

The charity is also calling for more work to be done to encourage people with money problems to seek help earlier to minimise the harm debt can cause.

A spokesman for the local government organisation Cosla said: "Scotland's councils take this issue very seriously and do all that they can to help people who find themselves in arrears.

"All councils will have plans and procedures in place to help people with their arrears."