By Simon Sansome
UK councils are failing to inform people with disabilities that they are in entitled to a council tax band reduction.
Ability Access has established, because of this failing people who are eligible for the band reduction are over paying council tax by almost five hundred million pounds a year.
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 dozens of Freedom of Information requests to councils across the UK, Ability Access established that councils spend zero time and money promoting that disabled residents are entitled to this council tax reduction.
As 2016 around 5% of people living in Leicester was a wheelchair user.
The result from the freedom of information request was that in the last 5 years just 291 people have applied for the council tax reduction. If the average council tax banding discount is £143 year from Leicester City Council tax band D-C. Leicester City have collected over £3.3 million pounds per year, for the last five years which they were not entitled to have, over £16.5 million pounds.
This is just one example from the hundreds of councils across the UK that collect council tax and adding up all the councils across the UK the total amount collected is close to half a billion pounds a year or two and a half billion in the last five years.
We asked several councils how many people have applied for a council tax reduction in the last five years.
Derby City Council 351
Nottingham City Council 151
Leicester City Council 291
South Derbyshire District Council 259
Blaby District Council 220
Chesterfield Borough Council 90
Melton Borough Council 46
Amber Valley Borough Council 1421
Birmingham City Council 509
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!”
Janine Morgan said: “We are Newcastle under Lyme and have claimed the council tax reduction due to our son being on higher rate DLA.”
Susan Clifton said: “We have claimed it for about 10 years now with no problem. We come under Stockport council who send us a reminder every year to reapply.”
Sara Martin said: “I got disability reduction on council tax from Wakefield Council.”
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 all over the UK is that people with disabilities are paying extra council tax when they are entitled to a reduction in banding and have over paid hundreds if not thousands of pounds to their local council when they didn’t need to.
Councils are not doing enough to promote the discount and residents can claim it back, just contact your local council tax office.