The number of households in Bolton facing enforcement action over non-payment of council tax bills has rocketed by more than 15 per cent over the past four years.

In the year 2019/20 there were 10,072 households whose cases were passed to enforcement agencies for collection, increasing from 8,725 in 2016/17.

Last year, the most deprived families in Bolton saw their contribution to council tax bills increase under new plans by the local authority.

Under Bolton Council’s local council tax support scheme, residents on benefits or very low incomes, used to pay at least 12.5 per cent of their council tax bills.

Bolton Council increased that to 17.5 per cent for all those of working age in receipt of the support.

The figures were released by council leader Cllr Martyn Cox at a meeting of the full council, after concerns about struggling families in Bolton were raised by Kearsley councillor Paul Heslop.

He said: “This month marks the end of the £20 per week Universal Credit uplift.

“It’s incredibly worrying that more than 30,000 households in Bolton are facing huge financial challenges in the coming months.

“Is there any connection between the council’s previous decision to force some of the borough’s least well off to pay extra tax when they are already living below the breadline and increased numbers pushed into the court system with the threat of a bailiff’s knock on the door?”

Cllr Cox replied: “Cases passed to enforcement agencies or summons issued for non payment are only done after a number of interactions with the taxpayer to try and ensure payment.

“A liability order is only issued if the summons continues to remain unpaid.

“After the summons has been issued and the case is considered in the magistrates’ court further efforts are then made to try and engage with the taxpayer to come to some sort of arrangement to pay with enforcement agents only becoming involved if these considerable efforts have been unsuccessful.

“Residents can also access a council tax hardship fund, if they are struggling to pay.”

This week the Joseph Rowntree Foundation claimed their research showed a third of the 11.6 million working-age households in the UK earning £25,000 or less were found to be in arrears on their rent or mortgage, utility bills, council tax bills or personal debt repayments.

The charity called for urgent government action to support families hit by pandemic-related financial pressures, including the reinstatement of the £20 uplift in universal credit.