Confusion over £150 council tax rebate timing

By Dan Whitworth and Jess Quayle
Money Box, BBC Radio 4

  • Published
Media caption,
Watch the moments in February when the chancellor pledged a £150 council tax rebate would be paid "in" April

Some people in England may have had to wait longer than they believed they would for a £150 council tax rebate.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak told Parliament it would be paid in April and a Treasury guidance paper said the same.

That document was subsequently changed to say "from April", the BBC's Radio 4 Money Box programme has learned.

That change brought it into line with other information released by the Treasury to the public which said the money would be paid "from" April.

The money is being given to people who are in council tax bands A-D. Whilst some councils have made the payment, many households have still not received it.

A number of people got in touch with the BBC's Money Box programme to say they had been expecting their money in April and were confused that they had not received it.

The Treasury said: "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."

The Levelling Up Department, which is responsible for the roll-out, said: "Many councils have already started paying the rebate and we expect the rest to begin payments shortly.

"The £150 council tax rebate will help millions of people deal with rising living costs, and we have provided an additional £144 million to councils to provide support to any household in need, regardless of council tax band."

Image caption,
The guidance, as published in February (top), originally said people will get the rebate in April but the guidance, as it is now (bottom), says from April

The Local Government Association, which represents councils, said it was working hard to process the payment and that necessary fraud checks and new software had caused delays.

Households can check their local council's website for more information.

In Wales and Scotland it is up to councils to decide how they pay this money out. In both countries the scheme also extends to people in council tax bands E to H if they get a reduction in the council tax due to low income.

In Scotland, councils have been told they can give the £150 as a direct discount off their council tax - and many have done that.

While there is no council tax in Northern Ireland, the executive there has been given money to make the payments but that has been held up by political uncertainty.

Energy bills are currently at record highs with a typical household likely to pay around an extra £700 per year since prices went up on 1 April.

Prices jumped by an average of 54% after the regulator, Ofgem, increased the price cap which limits how much energy companies can charge domestic customers.

Even then many households, like those in flats or who share communal heating networks, are not protected by the price cap and so are facing even higher rises.

How many households have been paid?

It is impossible to tell exactly how many households have so far received the £150 council tax rebate.

Money Box has however found many councils have not yet begun the process of paying the thousands of people in their areas who are entitled to it.

The programme also discovered that in many areas, even those who are first in the queue, because they pay their council tax by direct debit, will not get the payment until May or June.

Those who do not pay by direct debit, around a third of households, may have to wait until September.

The millions of bill payers who do not use direct debit are being told to wait to be contacted by their councils to arrange payment - but that is expected to draw the process out even longer.

UPDATE: This story by BBC Money Box has been amended to make clear that other Treasury material released at the time of the rebate announcement stated that the money would be paid "from April", and to include a Treasury response.