Plaid Cymru has called on both Westminster and Welsh Government to act to reduce household debt this winter.

Sioned Williams MS, Plaid Cymru’s spokesperson for Equalities called on both Governments to implement measures that would ease the financial burden on households across Wales, calling for legislation from Welsh Government to prevent debt, and for the UK Government to address the spiralling costs of living.

According to the Bevan Foundation, 130,000 households across Wales, 10% of all households, had fallen behind on a bill between January and May 2021. Over the same period 230,000 households, 17 per cent of all households had borrowed money.

The rising prices of utilities is reflected in the amount arrears for household bills, with debt charity StepChange reporting the 33% of household arrears is related to Water bills, 27% is electricity bills and 26% is unpaid gas bills.

However, the largest percentage of arrears highlighted by StepChange is unpaid Council tax, at 35%.

Sioned Williams MS, said:

“This winter will be difficult for so many households across Wales.

“Spiralling living costs have also piled on financial pressures, with no help coming from Westminster to those struggling to make ends meet.  

“Westminster has, in fact, exacerbated the problem in many cases, by cutting the £20 universal credit uplift, and removing the furlough safety-net long before it should have been.

“Meanwhile, many of the support schemes that were introduced in order to protect the most vulnerable have either come to an end or are due to come to an end soon.

“In order to tackle the rising cost of utilities, Westminster must establish a consistent baseline of support by energy suppliers for indebted customers as a matter of urgency, as well as reform the rural fuel duty relief scheme.”

Sioned Williams MS added,

“The Welsh Government, too has steps it could take, including working with local authorities to clear some of the significant council tax arrears that have been built up over the course of the pandemic.

“It’s also time to explore the possibility of legislation that would place a duty on all public bodies, including schools and colleges, to prevent debt.

“As we get closer to Christmas, I hope that we will be able to be reminded of those who are in need, but that also remember that support is needed throughout the year.”