[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Saturday, 3 February 2007, 14:15 GMT
Automatic council tax help urged
By Paul Lewis
BBC Radio 4's Money Box

Council tax demand notice
Only 53% of pensioners claim Council Tax benefit
The Government has been urged to pay council tax discounts to pensioners automatically.

At the moment they have to make a claim - a process which puts many off - and two million fail to claim around a billion pounds in rebates.

Help the Aged says the Government knows enough about the finances of all pensioners to know who is eligible.

And it says the rebate should be taken off the council tax bill before it is sent out.

It's a disgrace that two million people are not getting this billion pounds a year they're owed.
Anna Pearson, Help the Aged

Anna Pearson, the charity's Policy officer, told Money Box on Radio 4.

"The Government's been doing a lot of good work, led by the Department for Work and Pensions, looking at how Council Tax could be paid automatically when you get your bill. They would just sign and say 'This is me. I'm owed this money'."

She blames the Treasury for lack of progress

"The problem is that the DWP is facing budget cuts and the investment to make this system happen just isn't there. We're urging the Treasury to invest in these systems. It's a disgrace that two million people are not getting this billion pounds a year they're owed".

One reason for the fact that barely one in two of those eligible over 60 claim council tax benefit, is that many do not realise how high up the income scale it can be claimed.

Income scales

"If you look at the average band D council tax bill of 1200, you can get that fully paid if you have an income around 6500 as a single person or 10,000 for a couple. But you can get some help right up to 11,000 for a single person and 16,000 for a couple. And more if you're disabled or a carer."

One complexity is that your entitlement is reduced if you have savings over 6000 and for some people, though not others, savings over 16,000 rule you out. Help the Aged wants that 16,000 limit for some pensioners scrapped. And also wants another gesture from the Chancellor in his Budget, expected in March.

"We are calling for the 200 payment he announced before the last election to be reinstated. He made that payment because council tax needed reforming. It's still not been reformed. The least he can do is make this payment. It wouldn't cost that much more than people are losing out on at the moment."

A spokesman for the Department for Work and Pensions agreed it was really important that people claim any money they are entitled to. He added that last year the department contacted 278,500 pensioners whom it believed were entitled. As a result he said an additional 650,000 a week was being paid out in council tax benefit to pensioners.

BBC Radio 4's Money Box was broadcast on Saturday, 3 February 2007 at 1204 GMT.

The programme will be repeated on Sunday, 4 February 2007 at 1502 GMT.

Money Box



Download or subscribe to this programme's podcast

Podcast Help

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit


Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific