The number of people claiming a reduction in council tax in Aberdeen has risen to its highest in five years.
New figures released by the Scottish Government show 14,220 households claimed a council tax reduction (CTR) in June – the most since 2015.
The number represents a 3% increase in the second quarter of 2020 – up from 13,790 in April.
Meanwhile in Aberdeenshire, 13,240 households claimed a reduction – a rise of 0.9% since April, although the number fell slightly between May and June.
The CTR scheme reduces the council tax liability of lower-income households across Scotland – meaning support is given to some of the most vulnerable in the north-east’s communities.
However, local authority leaders reacted with concern at the rise in the number of households requiring help.
Aberdeen City Council co-leader Douglas Lumsden said: “The rise in council tax reductions is a deeply worrying trend and it shows the impact that Covid-19 is having on the short-term prosperity of the people of Aberdeen.
“It is therefore vital that we push ahead with our plans to diversify our local economy and call on the UK and devolved government to fully support the businesses and people of Aberdeen to realise our potential.”
The scheme also means local authorities miss out “weekly income forgone” – money they would normally receive.
In Aberdeen City, this was £214,300 per week in June, up almost 4% from April.
And in Aberdeenshire, the council missed out on £192,500 a week – a rise of 0.4%.
The total weekly income forgone across Scotland in June was more than £7 million.
A spokesman for Aberdeenshire Council said: “Clearly, the coronavirus pandemic has resulted in financial hardship for individuals and families.
“We would encourage anyone living in Aberdeenshire who is eligible to claim council tax reduction to do so online via the council’s website as the online claim form will give them an estimate of the level of CTR for which they may qualify.
“Whilst the weekly income foregone in Aberdeenshire is lower than the national average, this is reflects the level of in-work poverty in the area.
“We would encourage all residents to keep their council tax payments up-to-date as it funds vital services and anyone experiencing difficulties can doing so can contact us on 03456 081 201.”
Commenting on the figures, Aberdeen Central MSP Kevin Stewart – who is also the local government minister at Holyrood – said: “At these most testing of times it is absolutely essential that we do all we can to support those on lower incomes and we can see from the figures that a huge number of people have benefitted from a council tax reduction in Aberdeen.
“We cannot underestimate the difference that this reduction can make to the pockets of hard pressed families and individuals across the city and I’m proud that the Scottish Government is continuing to provide this essential support to folks throughout Scotland.”