COUNCIL tax arrears are expected in Swansea due to rising council tax but Universal Credit will have more of an impact, a cabinet member has said.

Councillor Mary Sherwood was asked at a scrutiny meeting if arrears were increasing, following a 5.99% hike in council tax which took effect on April 1.

Labour leaders have insisted the increase will be used for key frontline services like social care.

Cllr Sherwood, joint cabinet member for better communities said at the scrutiny meeting: “Council tax is rising everywhere – we are anticipating arrears.”

But she said Universal Credit – a benefit for working-age people, replacing six benefits and merging them into one payment – would have a worse impact.

All local authorities face council tax arrears, and take steps to reclaim the money.

Swansea Council has, to date, collected 97% of council tax owed in 2018-19. Total arrears currently stand at £7.7 million.

Cllr Sherwood said there were vulnerable people in Swansea who were missing out on council tax reduction relief, or other forms of help.

She added: “We are particularly concerned about trying to avoid court fees being heaped on a debt that we are very unlikely to get back.

“We have very low rates of punitive sentences for non-payment of council tax compared to other local authorities.”

The Welsh Government meanwhile has launched a new standardised process for people with severe mental impairments to reclaim council tax they are entitled to.

The discounts have been available for years, but campaigners said a lack of, or inconsistent, information from area to area meant many thousands of eligible people were missing out.

Those able to claim will be able to backdate their rebate to the date of their diagnosis.

Cllr Sherwood, who is also a member of the Welsh Local Government Association, told BBC Wales that the new measure meant that everyone would receive “a consistent level of support” across all councils.

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