Councils overcharge 100,000 vulnerable people up to £400
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 Moneysavingexpert.com 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.”