Unanswered questions linger over £150 council tax rebate as Wakefield Council criticises government timing

The government's been criticised for a lack of clarity over the specifics of its £150 rebate scheme.

By David Spereall
Monday, 14th February 2022, 5:25 pm
Updated Monday, 14th February 2022, 5:29 pm

Households in council tax bands A to D are due to get a one-off payment to help cope with the rising cost of living in April, under a scheme announced by the Chancellor last week.

But in Wakefield, senior figures have, while welcoming the announcement, warned that the work involved will put pressure on already stretched council services.

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Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced the £150 rebate last week, but details remain sketchy.

There is particular concern around the time it may take to get cash to people who don't pay their council tax by direct debit, with the government having offered no extra resources to help councils cope .

It's also unknown if people who are in council tax arrears will get the cash upfront, or if it will simply be used to reduce their debt.

Speaking at a scrutiny meeting on Monday, the council's chief finance officer, Neil Warren said: "What we've been told is it's not a reduction from people's council tax bills.

"It's outside of the council tax system, but councils have been chosen to administer it because we have people's addresses.

Wakefield North councillor Betty Rhodes said she'd been unable to answer residents' queries over the payment, because of the lack of detail.

"The timing of the government's announcement wasn't particularly helpful because residents naturally will ring up and be asking about it, but the payments aren't due until April.

"So there's a period of weeks before we can make the payments.

"But residents can be rest assured we will be doing everything we can, as we have before, to get the monies out to people as fast as possible."

Wakefield North councillor Betty Rhodes was critical of the absence of detail from the government's plans, saying she'd been unable to answer resident queries.

She told the meeting: "Without the guidance people are wondering how this can help them.

"One lady asked me, "Will this just come off my bill?" and I said, "I don't know. You are in the blind zone as much as me."

"While the money will be welcome I'm sure, the amount of work involved will be significant."

Asked by Coun Rhodes how the system would work for those in council tax arrears, Mr Warren said: "To be honest, that goes to the crunch of what we're waiting for with the government guidance.

"It's a called a rebate system, but the government's said clearly it operates outside of the council tax system.

"The question is, are we merely a payment mechanism to get the money out, or is it linked to council tax?

"These are the kind of questions that have been put to the government over the last week."

Local Democracy Reporting Service