NEW FIGURES have revealed that more than 12,000 people have been called to court for non-payment of housing tax in Bolton in the past 12 months.
The findings, obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, show that although no summons were issued between April and August 2020, the numbers rose from the following September with a total of 9,064 invitations to attend during the 2020/21 financial year and 3,432 to date for 2021/22.
This is because the livelihoods of the city’s residents have been particularly affected by the coronavirus crisis.
Responding to the findings, Urban Outreach Bolton CEO Dave Bagley said: “I think the local economic hardships that will be created by Covid are not yet fully realized and this is one of them.
“It’s clearly a lot of people and a lot of households.”
He added: “What we are fully aware of is what will happen as we come out of this, how will we recover from something that has had such an economic blow?”
Research from the Money Advice Trust has shown that more than seven million people across the UK fear they will not be able to pay their municipal tax bills over the next year due to pressures from the pandemic.
Trust’s Cost of Covid report finds one in nine adults in Britain as a result of the crisis fell behind on essential bills or personal credit, while one in eight had to use credit to pay bills, including council tax, or household items.
As the 12,000 figures show, this crisis has been particularly acute in Bolton.
Mr Bagley said: “People who are struggling should reach out, they shouldn’t see this as pride or a sign of failure, they should reach out and ask for help.
“There is no fault here, Covid is guilty, people are not.”
Mr Bagley also said Bolton Council always invests in supporting those in difficulty, while the authority itself says it has established a number of advisory services.
A council spokesperson said: “We only issue a summons for non-payment of council tax after we have sent both a reminder notice and a final notice and the customer has not paid us. or contacted us to make an arrangement to pay.
“We strive to help residents at an early stage to prevent them from getting into arrears.
“When people are having trouble paying their council tax, we encourage them to contact our customer service department on 01204 331599 to see how we can help them maintain their payments by making affordable arrangements to pay.
“On top of that, we also have a local social provision that helps people by providing food packages and discretionary housing payments to help pay for municipal taxes and rent. ”
More information can be found by calling Bolton Council Money Skills on 01204 332916 or by visiting https://www.bolton.gov.uk/benefits/help-crisis-emergency.
Anyone struggling with their finances can also seek help from the Citizens Advice Bureau: https://www.cabb.org.uk/.
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