Bath mum cuts children's packed lunches and sells pets to pay rise in council tax bill
A single mother of four is having to sell her children’s pets and cut back on their packed lunches after being told that her council tax bill is going up from £9 to £72 a month.
Shop assistant Emma Miles, who lives in Weston, is one of around 6,000 people across Bath and north east Somerset affected by a council tax benefit shake-up.
Bath and North East Somerset Council has replaced council tax benefit with a new system called the council tax support scheme, which means most people of working age will receive less help towards their bills.
It kicks in next month and in Miss Miles’ case, the fact that her child benefit payments now count as income has bumped up her tax by a massive 700 per cent.
The 41-year-old, whose children are aged between five and 17, said: “I’m not complaining that I have to pay council tax, I know that council tax helps for a lot of things. I understand we live in a beautiful city, with beautiful facilities, and I don’t mind paying towards it.
“But I believe they are robbing the poor and not taking from the people who can afford it.”
Miss Miles works part-time at Star News, in Weston High Street, which means she can look after her children after school.
She was already living without luxuries before the tax increase, but is now having to cut back even further as she faces the prospect of finding an extra £61 each month.
“I’m just going to have to cut back on other things,” she said. “I’m trying to think about what more I can do. I have already sold some of my children’s pets, their budgies, and have now been going through their packed lunches to see how I can make them cheaper.”
Celia Gale, from B&NES Citizens’ Advice Bureau, said it had received a number of inquiries from people concerned about the changes and the only advice it could give was to budget for the new, higher payments.
She said people should try to look at all areas of their life to see where they could cut back, including shopping around for deals on mobile phone and broadband packages, electricity and gas suppliers and insurance.
She added: “The council tax is a priority debt and enforcement for not paying it can involve liability orders in the magistrates court followed by bailiff action and ultimately imprisonment so this debt should not be ignored. Seek advice early if you are experiencing difficulties, and do not pay for that advice – your local citizens’ advice bureau, or one of the free debt advice services such as Payplan and Step Change can help you for free.”
A B&NES Council spokesman said that council tax itself had been frozen, but the benefit changes were down to the Government cutting council tax funding by 20 per cent nationally.
He said: “The council wrote to all benefit claimants on its database asking them to share any concerns they had about the proposed changes to the council tax support scheme, which were in accordance with the Government’s guidelines, as part of a public consultation. A cross-party meeting of all councillors considered the consultation responses and approved the changes to the council tax support scheme – aimed towards achieving savings of £1.5 million which will help to protect the services valued by everyone.”
He added that anyone with concerns could call 01225 477777 or visit their local One Stop Shop.