Thousands of Hackney residents affected by benefits cut

General view of a council tax bill.

General view of a council tax bill. - Credit: PA Archive/Press Association Images

Thousands of Hackney’s poorest families are struggling to pay bills following cuts to council tax support, according to new figures published by two leading London anti-poverty charities.

According to a report by Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) and Z2K, 9,227 low income residents in the borough are in arrears with their council tax while 1,115 have been referred to bailiffs.

The report evaluates the first year in operation of the new scheme where residents must pay at least 15 per cent of the council tax on their property in Hackney, where certain benefits claimants were previously exempt.

Joanna Kennedy, chief executive of Z2K said the use of bailiffs was “scandalous”.

A referral to a bailiff adds £75 onto a claimant’s debt, followed by a further £235 on the first visit.

Ms Kennedy said: “The use of bailiffs against low income households is a deeply questionable practise and their outrageous fees only serve to drive claimants deeper into debt or the arms of unscrupulous pay day lenders.

“We know the Mayor and councillors face tough choices in the face of budget cuts but we urge them to look again at these charges and refrain from using bailiffs against low income households.”

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A council spokesman said: “The council does not take the decision to use enforcement agents (formally known as bailiffs) lightly. The council will have contacted non-payers a number of times to try to avoid court action. Once a summons is issued, customers are invited to attend special surgeries to allow them to discuss their case and agree payment methods.