Coun­cils over­charge 100,000 vul­ner­a­ble peo­ple up to £400

The Sunday Telegraph - Money & Business - - News and comment - Amelia Mur­ray

Up to 100,000 of Bri­tain’s most vul­ner­a­ble con­sumers are be­ing over­charged for coun­cil tax, and are re­ceiv­ing “in­ap­pro­pri­ate” ad­vice from their lo­cal au­thor­ity, an in­ves­ti­ga­tion has re­vealed.

Those di­ag­nosed as “se­verely men­tally im­paired”, which in­cludes peo­ple suf­fer­ing from strokes and Alzheimer’s dis­ease, are ex­empt from pay­ing coun­cil tax. If they live with an­other per­son who is not dis­re­garded, such as a carer, they will get a 25pc dis­count.

Data from a Free­dom of In­for­ma­tion re­quest and re­search by Moneysaving­ex­ re­vealed that up to 100,000 peo­ple el­i­gi­ble for the dis­count are not re­ceiv­ing it. As a re­sult, they may be be­ing over­charged up to £400 a year, and could be due back­dated re­funds to­talling thou­sands.

A mys­tery-shop­ping ex­er­cise was con­ducted across 100 coun­cils and found two-thirds of them were giv­ing out in­cor­rect in­for­ma­tion about the dis­count. Moneysaving­ex­pert was told by some staff that the claim form was not avail­able on­line, which is not the case, or that claimants had to be in re­ceipt of ben­e­fits al­ready to get the dis­count.

In other cases, lo­cal au­thor­ity staff were un­aware that it ex­isted. Just a quar­ter of coun­cils could of­fer wholly cor­rect in­for­ma­tion.

The fig­ures showed the num­ber of claimants in the coun­cil area of Ren­frew­shire was 77 times higher than nearby East Ayr­shire.

A spokesman from the Depart­ment for Com­mu­ni­ties and Lo­cal Govern­ment said: “The law is clear that where peo­ple are se­verely men­tally im­paired, their coun­cil tax bill should take ac­count of this. We ex­pect all lo­cal coun­cils to make sure that peo­ple en­ti­tled to this sup­port re­ceive it.”

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