'Budget for higher payments'
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.
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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.