Benefit cuts leave 70,000 people in council tax arrears, says Labour

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Around 70,000 people are being pursued by bailiffs for council tax arrears following benefit cuts, the Labour Party has claimed.

The party has, according to the Independent newspaper, issued requests under the Freedom of Information Act to all English councils and 143 responded with figures showing 30,761 have been issued with bailiff notices. If extrapolated across England, 70,000 could be affected.

The coalition government last year scrapped council tax benefit and replaced it with a grant that covers 90 per cent of the cost in order to save £500 million. Councils can decide how to fund the 10 per cent cut, but cannot reduce benefit for pensioners.

The cut has been referred to as ‘a new poll tax’ by Labour.

Hilary Benn, shadow secretary of state for communites and local government, said: ‘Many people have found themselves getting into debt trying to pay this new tax; others have simply found it very difficult to pay.

‘Debt advice agencies have helped many people. But they too are limited by their capacity in tough times. Of course, people who can pay should be forced to do so, but where someone is in real difficulty, and especially where they are vulnerable, councils should not be sending in the bailiffs instead of using other means.’