Councils across England are urging householders to set up a direct debit payment for their council tax so that they can automatically receive the government’s £150 energy rebate in April.
The payment is designed to help offset some of the huge rise in gas and electricity costs due to take effect the same month and will be paid to those living in properties in council tax bands A-D.
About 80% of households qualify for help, but while the money will be paid straight into the bank accounts of those who have a direct debit set up with their local council, anyone paying by any other means will need to make a claim.
The Local Government Association said this meant the payments would take longer as councils would need to first contact the households and then make pre-payment checks before giving the rebate.
It said in some parts of the country, thousands of households were not set up to receive the payment automatically.
Hull city council, for example, has estimated that it does not have bank details for 60,000 households, while Dartford council has reported that 15,000 households do not pay by direct debit.
Shaun Davies, the chair of the LGA’s resources board, said: “This year will be tougher than most, particularly for those on lower incomes, so it is good that the government is stepping in to provide financial support to help ease these pressures.”
He added: “You can still get the money if you don’t have a direct debit set up, but it could take longer as your council will have to contact you and then you’ll have to make a claim.”
Charities have expressed concern that the way the payments will be distributed means those most in need could miss out.
When the policy was first announced, Citizens Advice said it was “a complicated lottery that means support is not targeted at people who really need it”, and called on the government to use the benefits system to deliver the money.