Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Help available for recession victims and council tax strugglers

PEOPLE in need of benefits or who are who are having problems meeting council tax payments are being urged to contact West Somerset Council for help.
The council’s finance portfolio holder, Councillor Doug Ross, said: “The economic crisis is having an effect on the local economy and some jobs have already been lost.
“Some businesses are also cutting employees’ hours to try to reduce operating costs.
“We appreciate that people may be struggling to meet payments, and that includes council tax bills.
“If this is the case, benefits may be available and we actively encourage local people to get in contact to see if we can help.
“We would rather work with people who are struggling to pay, so we can advise people on what benefits may be available.
“We can also help people who are living alone to claim the single person’s council tax discount, which reduces their bills by 25 per cent.”
Councils are obliged to take all necessary steps to recover unpaid council tax to support essential services, and this includes applying to the magistrates’ court for liability orders to enforce recovery.
“We would rather avoid court proceedings, and would always try first to work with people who are struggling to pay, as well as during any proceedings.
“We know more people than usual are experiencing changes in circumstances and we want to help if we can.
“We can also supply details of organisations that specialise in providing free, confidential advice for people in debt or facing financial difficulties.”
These organisations include:
  • Adviceguide, an on-line CAB service providing practical, up-to-date information on a wide range of topics, including benefits housing, debt and tax issues -
  • West Somerset Advice Bureau, Market House Lane, Minehead - 01643 704624
    Consumer Credit Counselling Service, which gives a wide range of free debt advice – freephone 0800 138 1111 or visit
  • National Debtline, for free, confidential and independent advice on debt issues – 0808 808 4000 or visit
  • Payplan, the UK's largest provider of free debt solutions, including free debt management plans and IVAs - freephone: 0800 917 7823 or visit
  • UK Insolvency Helpline, for free, confidential, independent debt information – 0808 074 6918 or visit
The district council can be contacted by calling 01643 703704 for people to find out if they are eligible for benefits or to seek guidance if they are having problems paying council tax bills.

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