Friday 26 April 2019
Today we have published research revealing that outdated and punitive council tax regulations are encouraging local authorities to collect arrears aggressively – causing people serious financial harm.
How a missed council tax bill of £167 can cost £2,065
BBC, 26/04/2019, Kevin Peachey
The article reports on our calculations finding that if a resident misses their first bill of the financial year (typically £167 in England) they could see the cost increase to £2,065 in just 9 weeks.
We have called for the rules to be changed to ensure people whose finances are stretched do not receive a big bill. The government is also reviewing the rules surrounding the way local authorities collect council tax.
Mark, a Citizens Advice client who is unemployed and has mental health problems, is one of those who has faced such a situation: “Last year was not a good year in terms of my health or finances. I had so many debts that it became very stressful and hard to find a way to make my money stretch to cover them all. In August, a letter arrived from a bailiff. I had become liable for the full year bill and my council tax debt was now with them. I felt really intimidated.”
Gillian Guy, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice, said: “council tax regulations make it harder for people to pay their original debts instead of helping them to get their finances back on track.”
Breadline Britain: New figures show the full extent of the UK’s payday loan addiction
Mail Online, 19/04/2019, Will Kirkman
Our call for tighter affordability checks by payday lenders was featured in a story on Mail Online about the increase in loans over the past year. FCA figures showed lending reached £1.2 billion in 2018.
Gillian Guy said: “It’s even more critical that affordability checks on payday loans are tightened as lending rises. We see evidence of companies handing unaffordable amounts of money to people, many of whom are vulnerable or already have multiple debts. We want the FCA to take action. Rules must spell out to lenders what these checks should include – most importantly, proof of income and usual spending.”
Should the smart meter rollout deadline be scrapped?
Utility Week, 23/04/2019, Adam John
The latest findings from BEIS show that smart meter installation activity by large energy suppliers was down 16 per cent in the final quarter of 2018 compared with the same time a year earlier. The article questions that with this in mind, should the 2020 deadline be scrapped?
Gillian Guy, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice, said: “Smart meters will provide benefits for customers, but with the rollout beset by technical problems, the current timetable is unrealistic.
“There’s little chance that the 2020 deadline will be met, it should be extended to 2023.”
Are the energy minnows out of their depth?
Daily Mail, 17/04/2019, p40, Samantha Partington
A Daily Mail story on the effect on customers when a small energy company collapses has featured a comment from us.
Gillian Guy told the paper that long waiting times for refunds, difficulty switching and debt chasing practices when firms fail have prompted a large number of calls from the public.
Also in the Mail, columnist Victoria Bischoff had high praise for the Citizens Advice Energy Star Ratings as she bids to find better ways of finding a new energy supplier.
“I switch energy provider every year and I admit that, up until now, I have been pretty cavalier when it comes to choosing supplier. My mantra was: ‘Cheapest is best,'” she wrote.
“Now, I’ll be paying far more attention to how a firm’s customer service is ranked by Citizens Advice.”
Section 21 changes in full: landlords finally to be banned from unfair evictions
Daily Mirror, 15/04/2019, Emma Munbodh
The Mirror’s report into the government announcement on potentially scrapping section 21 evictions used our statement in full.
Gillian Guy said: “Scrapping no-fault evictions is a groundbreaking shake-up of the private rented sector and will better protect the almost 5 million households who live in it.
“It means renters – including families – will be able to put down stable roots where they live and prevent landlords from evicting tenants for simply complaining.”
Government plans to ban no-fault evictions
The Week, 15/04/2019
Current affairs magazine The Week featured our response as well as our data that showed almost one in two people who formally complained about their home were evicted within six months.
“Citizens Advice said the proposed change was a ‘groundbreaking shake-up’,” The Week’s report said.
In other news
Half of motorists think charging loyal car insurance customers more should be illegal, Go Compare research finds.
Food bank network hands out record 1.6m food parcels in a year, reports the Trussell Trust.
Labour says it would scrap a government scheme that allows offices and industrial buildings to be converted into homes without planning permission.
GCHQ are to announce they will help banks fight fraud by detecting stolen credit cards on the dark web.
Almost 2 million people will lose more than £1,000 a year following the switch to universal credit, with those claiming disability benefits the worst affected, according to research by IFS.