Number of penniless ‘has doubled’

Pictured Chief Constable Grahame Maxwell and Chairman of North Yorkshire Police Authority, Jane Kenyon at the opening of the new police station in Harrogate

Pictured Chief Constable Grahame Maxwell and Chairman of North Yorkshire Police Authority, Jane Kenyon at the opening of the new police station in Harrogate

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The number of penniless families in the borough turning to the council for help in keeping a roof over their heads has doubled in the past year.

Since April, thousands of court summons have been posted to hard up residents over unpaid council tax, and hundreds of businesses in the borough are failing to pay their bills.

The homeless charity Shelter also has warned that the borough council is limited in how much money it can hand out to struggling families, before they would be forced onto the streets.

Figures disclosed by the borough council through the Freedom of Information Act reveal a “frightening” spike in the number of families and traders in the borough struggling to survive since the welfare overhaul.

They reveal that:

• 7,311 council tax reminders were posted after residents missed the first payment - up 73 per cent on last year

• 2,198 court summons sent out already this year over unpaid council tax

• 348 businesses late in paying their first business rate payment of 2013

• 146 firms that hadn’t paid any rates two months after the first payment was due

And in a report from Whitby Cabinet member Coun Jane Kenyon, the Finance, Procurement and Legal portfolio holder claims the number of Discretionary Housing Payments made to struggling families and individuals doubled in 2012 - and is on course to double again this year.

The payments are dished out from a council cash pot, to benefit claimants who are struggling to pay the remainder of their rent, are in arrears or possibly about to be made homeless.

In 2012, 307 payments were made, and 178 applications have been made since April this year.

In her report, Coun Kenyon admits the rise in payments are “in no small part” down to welfare reform changes, such as the controversial bedroom tax