Only a third of councils around the United Kingdom have chosen to freeze their council tax bills, meaning that people across Britain who are already struggling to keep on top of their bills could suddenly find themselves out of their depth. Whilst some will be able to find temporary solace with payday loans or smart use of credit cards, others will have no option but to cut back on their spending or spend time working out what are the essentials and what are luxuries.
The last few years have been difficult for many households, but it had looked like things were beginning to improve halfway through last year, when the economy grew thanks to the Olympics and the Diamond Jubilee. However, that was short lived, and the recent news of contracting GDP and now this potential jump in council tax could see people fall back into the financial doldrums.
Communities Minister Eric Pickles has voiced his concerns over the taxes, saying that councils “have to man up. Be straight with people […] councils should also stop treating residents with contempt. That’s why we’re making sure local people have their say by lowering the referendum threshold for council tax.”
A survey by MoneySupermarket has found that the biggest cause of worry for people throughout 2012, and the most common area of their lives that people want to change in 2013, is their finances. When asked, 34% of people said that they worried about their financial situation every day, and 60% of people said that the increasing cost of living causes them stress.
It’s a clear indication that the ongoing financial crisis and all the problems it has brought, including a lack of jobs, increasing inflation and big jumps in the cost of living whilst interest rates stay low, is affecting not just people’s bank balances but their overall attitude and mental health as well. In a separate MyVoucherCodes.co.uk survey, people were affected so badly that as many as 31% said their New Year’s resolution was to save more money, whilst 22% wanted to get out of debt in 2013.
Some of the biggest financial pressures weighing on people’s minds included repaying mortgages and loans. The fear of having a house repossessed was particularly strong, which is unsurprising given the implications that defaulting can have.
The UK spending public appear to have become more thrifty, continuing to take on debt with loans and credit cards but paying them off just as fast. This is a big jump from the previous situation, which saw Britons taking on more and more debt without enough being paid back.
It’s a sign that, as a nation, we are becoming more financially aware. It means that there is less debt hanging over our heads and we have taken better control of our finances.
However, it’s not just new debt that is being paid down. Households are paying down mortgages and existing loans, meaning that they have more breathing room for any future financial difficulties.
The chief executive of financiers SPF Private Clients, Mark Harris, claims that “lack of consumer confidence, caused by weak economic growth in the UK and the ongoing eurozone crisis, mean most homeowners feel more comfortable paying down their debt than increasing their liabilities.