Council tax is the main factor driving people to seek help with debt, a new report has shown.

A charity which provides free and independent debt advice by telephone and online said it is alarmed by the increases in the number of its clients who are struggling with household bills, particularly council tax.

StepChange Debt Charity Scotland was contacted by over 30,000 people last year seeking debt help, across every constituency in Scotland.

A total of 46 per cent of its clients had council tax arrears, with an average value of £2,017.

The average amount of money clients had left over after meeting housing costs, paying to heat their homes and paying council tax was just £12.64 a month.

And the charity said more clients in Scotland are falling behind their household bills.

Nearly one in five clients were behind on their electricity bill, a four per cent jump on 2017.

They owed an average of £826, a 10 per cent increase in just one year.

The charity blames reductions in income or benefits for people getting into debt, with a quarter of clients saying that was the reason for their debt, an increase of seven per cent in just one year.

READ MORE: Council tax to rise by an average of £78

Sharon Bell, head of StepChange Debt Charity Scotland, said: “The vast majority of StepChange clients are in problem debt due to circumstances they could not have prevented or planned for, such as unemployment, ill-health or reductions in income.

"Our research shows that our clients in Scotland are significantly more likely to have council tax arrears compared to elsewhere in the UK.

“We are seeing a record level of demand for help with problem debt, with over a third of our clients having an additional vulnerability, such as illness.

"We need more signposting to free debt advice, as the earlier someone gets debt advice the greater their options may be and the less harm they could experience.”