A SOCIAL media campaign is needed to help people with financial worries a councillor has suggested.

The call came at a meeting of Powys County Council’s Finance Panel, on Thursday, July 30 where members discussed the financial position from April to June.

During that time collection rate for the Council Tax fell as the country went into lockdown due to coronavirus.

The financial report says that in April the collection rate was down by 7.5 per cent, but the position improved to three per cent down in May and 1.19 per-cent in June.

This still burned a £950,000 hole in PCC’s 2020/21 budget.

Plaid Cymru group leader, Cllr Elwyn Vaughan told the meeting that he feared what would happen when the UK Governement’s furlough job retention scheme finishes in October.

Cllr Vaughan, (Glantwymyn) said: “My biggest concern is that we’ve seen with bank results, huge provision for bad debt and liabilities for the coming months and years.

“As people come off furlough there is a danger that unemployment will increase substantially through no-one’s particular fault.

“What I fear it’s in the autumn that the council will be particularly hit.”

Cllr Vaughan suggested working with third sector organisations such as the Citizen’s Advice Bureau (CAB).

He said: “We need to be proactive in highlighting the support and advice to our residents in order to alleviate some of those pressures now before they mount up.”

Head of Finance, Jane Thomas, said: “The first month of collection did coincide with the pandemic and we did see quite a reduced level it did rally in May and we have seen a further improvement.

Ms Thomas explained that council tax collection rates was being discussed with the Welsh Government and the WLGA (Welsh Local Government Association).

She believes the Welsh Government are waiting to see how the situation develops before deciding on providing more support.

Ms Thomas said:  “We do offer our own money advice service we do deal with residents that are having problems in paying council tax, the reduction scheme is available.

“You will see there is a pressure on that as there is more take up.”

“We try and support our residents and advertise the fact that they can come and talk to us and we can assist wherever possible and direct them to various points if appropriate.”

Cllr Vaughan added: “Can I suggest that we have a campaign on our social media for that.”

The report said that PCC expects a collection rate of 95.3 per-cent for the rest of the financial year which would mean a shortfall of £1.9 million by the end of March 2021.

It adds that an increase in the number of benefit claimants has seen eligibility for the council tax reduction scheme increase with a corresponding caseload rise of 550 this quarter.