Families across Perth and Kinross are in the midst of an unprecedented struggle with debt that could plunge the council into crisis.
Shocking new figures reveal that residents are straining and crumbling beneath the weight of historic levels of money woes.
The total debt faced by the hardest pressed rose by 12% over the past 12 months and is predicted to increase by a further 17% during the next financial year.
Perth Citizens Advice Bureau warns that could lead to a significant increase in unpaid council tax and council rent.
That could have a major impact upon Perth and Kinross Council whose own cash crisis will see it forced to slash £65 million from its budget over the next five years.
Perth and North Perthshire MP Pete Wishart said the CAB’s warning “should set alarm bells ringing throughout the entire community” as he called for a new strategy to address debt.
Perth CAB reports that it is now “working to capacity” as its staff attempt to offer a way out for local people.
They have worked with households plunged into ill health by the strain of paying for even the basics, such as rent, council tax or fuel.
Chief Executive Sandy Watts warned that without swift action and major
welfare reform the future bodes ill for individuals, families and the council.
Mrs Watts said: “Individuals in debt are accumulating more debts and a higher level of indebtedness.
“The trend for increasing priority debt such as rent, council tax and fuel and the gradual decrease in consumer debt suggests more and more people are struggling just to make ends meet.
“Rent arrears have more than doubled in the last two years as have fuel debts, such as domestic gas and electricity, which is hugely worrying as these are essential household costs.
“Council tax debt remains high with a 50% increase last year and a further increase anticipated this year.
“It is likely to increase again next year quite substantially if council tax is increased. Welfare reform must be a key factor. 86% of Universal Credit
claimants are now in council tax or council rent arrears.
“The full UC service will not reach Perth and Kinross until next year but this bodes ill for the future and I think is a big worry for local authorities.”
Pete Wishart MSP said he was ever more aware of the scale of Scotland’s debt problem as an increasing number of struggling constituents visit his offices in Perth and Blairgowrie.
“What we are hearing from CAB should set alarm bells ringing throughout or community,” he said.
“This is not about excessive spending on luxury items or pushing the boat out. It is about people struggling with day-to-day necessities.”