Confusion reigns as residents await Council Tax rebate
Local residents await confirmation of when the payment will be made
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By Natalie Bloomer
Local residents have taken to social media to seek information amid confusion over the council tax rebate introduced by the government to help with soaring energy bills.
Posts on local Facebook groups make it clear that many people thought the £150 payment, which will be paid to people in council tax bands A-D, would arrive in April. Many residents have also stated that they are unsure what the process is to obtain the money.
NN Journal has tried to clarify when payments will be made and how but was unable to get a clear answer from either West Northamptonshire or North Northamptonshire council.
We contacted both last Thursday but have still not been given the information.
The West’s website says that for those who pay by direct debit it is “anticipated” that the rebate will start to be paid from the middle of May onwards. People who don’t pay by direct debit can expect a longer wait as the council will be writing to them from mid-May to invite them to apply. However, further validation checks will then be carried out before any money is actually sent.
In the North there is far less information available. The council’s website simply says the scheme is still being finalised.
When the policy was first announced, guidance from the Treasury said payments would be made in April. The chancellor Rishi Sunak also said this in parliament. However, an investigation by the BBC’s Moneybox programme found that the guidance has since been changed to say ‘from April’.
In a statement to the BBC, the department for Levelling Up said: “Many councils have already started paying the rebate and we expect the rest to begin payments shortly.”
A spokesperson for the Treasury told the programme: "We've always been clear, including in our press notice and the leaflet which went out to millions of households, that the £150 council tax rebate to help with the cost of living would be paid 'from' April."
Deputy leader of the Labour group in the West Emma Roberts says she is being contacted by residents about the issue. An update given to her by the local authority says it is currently testing a new update to its software which has been introduced to process the payments.
“Other councils have already paid it. As to why we haven’t, I can’t get a clear answer and given the number of queries I have received, the communication on it is terrible,” Cllr Roberts told NN Journal.
“By the time many get it, we will be half way through the year and arguably those having to wait will be the most vulnerable it was intended to help. Government gimmicks don’t help councils reach their most vulnerable though and it feels this was not as well thought out as they all suggest. I would be interested to know how much it will actually cost the council to administer.”
The confusion comes as people up and down the country begin to receive letters from their energy providers informing them that their bills will be jumping up. It is expected that millions of customers will face a rise of around £700 a year.
The treasury has confirmed that all local authorities have received the money from central government ready to be paid out.