By Simon Sansome
Paying council tax can be a worrying subject for many people with disabilities, a lot of the time people with disabilities are on a low income.
Martin Lewis, of Money Saving Expert has been doing a cracking job of raising awareness for people who have a mental impairment and are free from paying council tax. However, things are a little different if you have a physical disability as you still need to pay council tax, but disabled residents are entitled to a council tax band reduction if you meet the following criteria.
There is an additional bathroom or kitchen for meeting the needs of the disabled resident
A permanently disabled resident uses a wheelchair indoors
There is a room, that is not a bathroom, kitchen or lavatory, used to predominantly
meet the needs of the disabled resident.
Following a Freedom of Information request by Ability Access, we have established that councils spend zero time and money promoting that disabled residents are entitled to the council tax reduction.
Reply from Birmingham City Council:
19 June 2018
Freedom of Information Act 2000
1. Can I have details please of how much the council has spent in the last 5 years on promoting the council tax disability band reduction
2. How many leaflets they have sent out to residents about the issue.
3. How many applications have been successful for the band reduction in the last five years.
1. We have carried out no promotion for this relief.
3. From the 01/01/14 we have granted disabled relief to 509 cases.
Ability Access has requested the same information from various councils across the country only Manchester has replied and added they put the information about the reduction in the yearly newsletter.
The following comments were made on Ability Access: Facebook page
Hazel-Marie Bloomfield-Shaw said: “I’m disabled and lucky enough to live in adapted bungalow, we get a small discount off our council tax. But, I also have a lot more expenditure than a single, non-disabled person. Equipment costs, travel costs for medical appointments etc. Also, extra electric costs for medical equipment, extra water used due to my conditions, and until recently extortionate prescription costs for medication needed due to my conditions. People seem to think that disabled people get everything for free, but we don’t, and our living costs are generally higher.”
Abigail Johnson said: “I had no idea there was a Disability reduction. Given I’m on full PIP and top ESA, perhaps I should’ve been told!”
The Local Government Finance Act 2012 says nothing about a set rate for a person with a disability or that the discount should be a band reduction. But it is clear from several council tax searches they have all followed suit and decided to drop a band to assist people with disabilities.
The Local Government Finance Act 2012 says the following: “Each billing authority in England must make a scheme specifying the reductions which are to apply to amounts of council tax payable, in respect of dwellings situated in its area, by
(a)persons whom the authority considers to be in financial need, or
(b)persons in classes consisting of persons whom the authority considers to be, in general, in financial need.”
This indicates that the council have the power to change how much people with disabilities pay for council tax.
What appears to be happening is that people with disabilities are paying extra council tax when they are entitled to a reduction in banding and could have over paid hundreds if not thousands of pounds over the years. The reasons for this is because the council do not have enough money to promote the discount, meaning disabled residents could be entitled to a refund.