For most households in Scotland the cost-of-living crisis remains an ongoing struggle. Last week, figures from the property website Zoopla revealed the largest increase in UK private rents was in Glasgow.

In the three years between 2020 and 2023, private rents rose by 38.9% in Glasgow, which was higher than London, Manchester or Edinburgh.

This was despite the 2022 Cost of Living (Tenant Protection) (Scotland) Act, which is due to expire later this month.

You could be forgiven for thinking cost-of-living misery wasn’t on the radar of some MSPs at Holyrood. Scottish Government proposals to ban meal deals

and multi-buy offers in shops and supermarkets could see the cost of lunches and food rise in Scotland.

Likewise, the news is not good for those with council tax debt. Last month the 2024 Act of Sederunt (Fees of Messengers-at-Arms and Sheriff Officers) (Amendment) was laid before the Scottish Parliament.

This proposal would see the cost of sheriff officer fees for debt recovery rise by almost 12%.

The Act of Sederunt is subject to “annulment procedure” before the Parliament’s Equalities, Human Rights and Civil Justice Committee later this month – so it could be rejected or approved.

While such fees are often uprated every three years, the difficulty is such a significant increase during an ongoing cost-of-living crisis can only lead to hardship for the poorest in our society.

Since 2011/12, the number of diligences being executed in Scotland has increased from 481,565 to 533,690 in 2022/23 – including charges for payment – which represents a 10.82% increase.

For diligences executed for summary warrants for council tax debt, the increase has been more; the number executed rising from 351,995 in 2011/12 to 454,390 in 2022/23 - an increase of 29.02%.

This increase has been driven by the introduction of the need to serve a charge for payment which was not required until law reform in 2008 which gave debtors the ability to seek time to pay for council tax debt.

A charge is a 14-day demand for payment that sheriff officers serve personally before further diligence such as an earnings arrestment or bank account arrestment can take place.

Charges for payment have increased from 164,630 in 2011/12 to 213,900 in 2022/23 – a 30% increase.

The cost of a charge is presently £86.03, which equates to adding £18.4m on to council tax debts each year.

The proposed Act of Sederunt would increase that individual fee to £96.27 – an 11.9% increase – which would add an extra

£2.1 million to the costs for debtors at the current level of charges served.

Why would you do this in an ongoing cost-of-living crisis?

More progressive options would be to annul the proposed Act of Sederunt and change the relevant regulations to allow for cheaper forms of service of charges for payment.

If “signed for” postal service was permitted this would cost £48.02 per case and – could save £10.4m per annum.

Why not allow two local government officers to serve a charge for payment at a much lower cost to debtors? At present, council officers can already serve certain pre-court notices in eviction cases, so there are precedents.

Ultimately, there are many things we can do to mitigate the cost of living crisis, rather than make it worse.