New report sets out paths from debt as large council tax rises loom

Early intervention is key to stop Welsh households falling behind on their council tax or social housing rent payments, according to a new report from the Wales Centre for Public Policy.

As councils across Wales are seeking large increases in their council tax rates for the coming year, the report highlights the importance of building personalised and proactive support for vulnerable citizens, rather than a one-size-fits-all approach.

Key features of an effective support system would include:

  • Building trust with citizens right when they start being responsible for paying council tax or social rents
  • Identifying any problems and acting on them as early as possible
  • Easing the process of referring people in debt into partner services, and improved access to independent specialist help

But the report also warns that the ability for councils and housing associations to respond to future increases in demand, particularly in relation to any roll-out of Universal Credit, could be hampered because of increased workload pressures.

67,600 (5.2%) of households in Wales have problem debt according to the ONS, with a greater number of them in arrears for their council tax or social housing rents than in previous years.


Dr Paul Worthington of the Wales Centre for Public Policy said:

“While council tax rises of the scale proposed by many Welsh councils this year may well be unavoidable, much more can be done to support those most at risk of falling into debt as a result of larger bills.

“Some councils are already doing good work, but the advice and support on offer across Wales is too inconsistent. Councils should be learning from each other and striving to improve the way they support those vulnerable to debt.

“There’s also a lot to be learned from the way many social landlords support their tenants who are at risk of rent arrears, and an increase in data-sharing and staff development between them and local councils is one way to improve the support on offer.

“While I have no doubt all councils and social landlords will want to learn from our report, the unanswered question is whether they’re even able to commit extra resource to this at a time when budgets are being further squeezed.”

Click here to read the full report.