Cost of living crisis: Thousands of the North East's poorest families expected to miss out on automatic £150 council tax rebate
More than 300,000 North East households will not automatically get Rishi Sunak's £150 council tax rebate.
The Chancellor announced last month that taxpayers in band A, B , C and D homes across the country would get the one-off payment to help deal with the cost of living crisis.
But the money will only be automatically sent into people’s bank accounts from April if they pay their council tax bill via direct debit – something that many thousands of people across the region do not do.
It means anyone who pays by another means, such as by cheque or over the phone, faces having to apply separately in order to get the rebate they are entitled to.
And it is feared that many of those who will not get the £150 payment will be the poorest families, including those who do not have a bank account.
Councils across the North East have confirmed that there are roughly 323,000 band A - D households in the region that do not use direct debit to pay their council tax – about 45,000 in Sunderland; roughly 30,000 in South Tyneside; almost 57,000 in Newcastle; 40,000 in Northumberland; around 31,000 in North Tyneside; 36,000 in Gateshead and 84,000 in County Durham.
The councils indicated they would encourage residents to sign up for direct debits if they are able to, but several said they were still awaiting guidance from the Government on how other people will be able to access the rebate.
Sunderland City Council’s cabinet secretary, Coun Paul Stewart, warned that those who need the money most would find it hardest to claim their £150.
He said: “It’s unfortunate and regrettable that once again the Government has introduced a policy that will directly hit struggling families without bank accounts or those that pay through other means such as cash and making it more difficult for those in most need to claim this rebate.”
Coun Joanne Bell, lead member for resources and innovation at South Tyneside Council, added: “We are still awaiting clarity from Government on the other options that may be available to those who do not sign up to direct debit and will ensure that our communications channels are updated as soon as we have that information. However it is anticipated that there is likely to be an application process required for these customers.
“I am disappointed that the Government has not thought through the significant practicalities at a time when bills are being issued to households for the new financial year, but I can assure residents that everyone will get the money that they are entitled to.”
The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities has urged taxpayers to switch to direct debit in order to avoid difficulties and says local councils will be reimbursed for the extra costs of setting up a separate application form process for people who do not.
A Government spokesperson said: “Direct debit is the quickest and easiest way to pay council tax, and the best way for most people to get the rebate.
“Eligible households who don’t pay their council tax by direct debit will be invited to make a claim. Councils will be reimbursed for their administration costs.”