The number of people taken to court over unpaid council tax has increased by more than 1,200 since Council Tax Benefit was scrapped.
More than 5,000 summonses have been issued since April 1, compared with about 3,900 in the same period of 2012 – a rise of more than 30 per cent.
And council officials have slammed the figure, blaming a “ludicrous” Coalition Government policy for the rise. The tax discount, part of the new council tax support, was introduced more than six months ago when the Conservative/Lib Dem Government brought in benefit reforms. At a meeting of Preston City Council, leader Peter Rankin said: “There’s a big increase as a result of this ludicrous scheme.
“It just isn’t working, just as bedroom tax isn’t working, because there aren’t enough two-bedroom houses or flats for people.”
The number of reminders issued between April 1 and October 14 this year was 16,281, compared with 12,464 in the same period last year – an increase of about 30 per cent.
Final notices increased by almost 50 per cent in the same period from 1,923 to 2,851.
And summonses issued increased from 3,876 to 5,081.
Labour Councillor Martyn Rawlinson, cabinet member for resources, described the scheme as a “disaster.”
Speaking at the meeting, he said: “The majority of people who are not paying are ignoring demands and summonses because they simply can’t pay it.
“They are waiting to have something imposed on them.
“They tell me they just don’t see how they can pay it.
“If this Labour group could have absorbed the cost within our budget we would have done it.
“The Government is solely responsible for this disaster.”
From April 1, Council Tax Benefit was scrapped and local councils became responsible for setting and administering benefits under a local scheme called council tax support.
In Preston, there is a 20 per cent reduction in benefit for all working age people previously claiming council tax benefit.
Speaking after the meeting, Coun Rawlinson said that people previously claiming income-based benefit were receiving 100% council tax benefit, but were now receiving an 80% discount.
He said that, of people claiming council tax discount, 1,400 of them were being summonsed to court.
A spokesman for the Department for Communities and Local Government said: “This government is funding a five-year council tax freeze that has already delivered a 10 per cent real terms cut in bills for hard working families.
“24 million bills are issued each year. The most recent figures actually show that councils have been able collect more money from their residents than this time last year, undermining these alarmist claims about arrears.
“However, council tax benefit doubled under the last government costing every household £180 a year so welfare reform is a vital part of reducing the inherited deficit.
“Localising council tax support gives councils stronger incentives to cut fraud and support people to get back into work.”