As part of a Government-outlined support package, hundreds of thousands of Brits have been promised a £150 council tax rebate. Despite the payments beginning in April, many of the most vulnerable households have yet to receive the urgent funds as local councils struggle to navigate the complex payment system. Many low-income families who do not pay their council tax through a direct debit have been left waiting for the much anticipated rebate offered to help them cope with the cost of living crisis. As prices continue to soar across the UK, local authorities have expressed their dissatisfaction with the Government burden of organising the promised rebate for households in their area.
Adam Scorer, CEO of National Energy Action said:”I don’t blame local authorities, this is something that was forced upon them without any warning.
“The people I feel most sorry for are those who desperately need the money and are going to have to jump through hoops, around rings, in order to access what the Government told them was £150 easy money.”
Speaking to the BBC Breakfast, Mr Scorer, as CEO of a fuel poverty and energy efficiency charity, highlighted the desperation of the most vulnerable households awaiting the council tax rebate.
Many local councils are struggling to coordinate the rebate for households who do not pay their council tax through direct debit as their details are not so readily available.
The issue is particularly prevalent in areas like Rochdale where an estimated one-third of residents don’t pay their council tax through a direct debit agreement.
The BBC spoke to the Leader of Rochdale Borough Council, Neil Emmott, to understand how this has affected his locality.
Mr Emmott said: “We recognise that most of those people are probably the ones most in need, the most vulnerable members of the community.”
He suggested the families that were unable to pay by direct debit were commonly also the households that struggled the most to cope with financial pressures.
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The £150 rebate is accessible to households within the council tax bands A to D and the amount is not based on the council tax that has been paid for the property, meaning all eligible households will receive £150 even if their council tax bill is less than this amount.
Government advice on how to receive the council tax rebate clearly states: “If you live in an eligible property and you pay your council tax by direct debit, your local council will make the payment directly to your bank account, starting from April 2022.”
However the guidance provided for groups who do not pay by direct debit is far more vague: “If you live in an eligible property and you do not pay your council tax by direct debit, your local council will contact you from April to arrange a method for paying the rebate. You do not need to do anything in the meantime.”
For households who do not use a direct debit scheme, there is no clear estimation of when a payment can be expected and the responsibility for the arrangement of this measure is clearly placed on local councils who must reach out to affected families on an individual basis.