With the cost of living soaring and council tax becoming the latest expense to grow, people in Perth are fearing they could be left homeless.
This week Perth and Kinross Council announced council tax bills will go up by 2.5% – an increase of £33 per year for Band D properties.
Council leader Murray Lyle said the rise – lower than the 4.25% initially proposed – will allow the authority to support people recover from the coronavirus pandemic.
We spoke to two women living in Perth city centre who fear they won’t be able to cope.
Ellen Bauchope, 24, fears she could lose her home
Perth city centre resident, Ellen Bauchope, 24, said: “For me personally, any gradually mounting costs could mean having to give up my flat, which is very scary to think about.
“I live alone, and before Christmas my place of work cut staff hours to save costs in the face of the Omicron variant [of coronavirus].
I have already been facing financial strain due to the drop in income, now I have this to worry about too.
“Many people living alone in their mid-20s like myself will be feeling the same financial anxiety.”
Ellen said councillors, who set the coming year’s budget on Wednesday, should have considered financial hardships before agreeing the tax rise.
“I think that rising taxes are quite unhelpful at best, and just tone-deaf at worst,” she said.
“The council must understand the hardships faced by residents of the Perth and Kinross area, and with businesses still suffering from the lasting effects of Covid.
“We cannot simply ignore the difficulties some people may be facing – the difficulties which will be added to with any incoming rises in tax and living costs.
“I’m already trying the best I can to keep my personal costs down, and I’m not really sure how else to save money, short of taking another part-time job on top of my current managerial job in a local coffee shop, which of course would cause me to be taxed more.
“I would be totally gutted to lose my flat, I can’t even think about it.
“My mental health is suffering as a result and I am concerned that if I lose my flat, this will only get worse.”
Kirsten Roper, 33, worries about financial uncertainty
Kirsten Roper is a Labour candidate in the upcoming council elections. Here, she is speaking about her personal experiences.
Kirsten, who also lives in the city centre, says she will have to buy less food and fuel when the council tax rise kicks in on April 1.
She said: “It’s very worrying to me.
“Having to spend more money on council tax will leave me with less money each month for other things – not just luxuries but basics like food and fuel.
“I’m concerned about the future.
“Although I work full time, my wage is low enough that I still receive a top-up from Universal Credit and I have to carefully budget each month.
“I’m very worried about how the wider cost of living crisis is going to affect me.
“I’ve already had to cut the luxuries and scale back my day-to-day expenditure.
“I’m not just worried about right now but also the longer-term implications.
“I’m not able to put money aside in savings at the moment and that’s a concern for the future.”
Why is council tax rising?
Perth & Kinross Council leader Murray Lyle said: “We know how difficult the pandemic and cost of living pressures are making it for many households and so councillors agreed to restrict the council tax rise to 2.5%, rather than 4.25%.
“We anticipate this will be one of the lowest rises in the country.
“This will allow us to continue supporting families and communities and promote the economic wellbeing of Perth and Kinross.
“The pandemic has been extremely challenging for everyone and helping people recover is critical.”
Perthshire charities have also raised concern about the added strain of the council tax rise.