The first people in Bristol to get a one-off £150 council tax rebate to help pay for soaring energy bills will start receiving the money from next Monday, council chiefs have announced.
The Government announced the rebate earlier this year and it was supposed to be paid to everyone eligible in April, but Bristol City Council – along with lots of other councils across the country – have had to delay it until May to work out how to get the money to the people who are entitled to it.
The council’s cabinet member for finance, Cllr Craig Cheney, said everyone at City Hall was grateful for the patience shown by people who have been waiting for it, while the wheels of the council turned to sort this out.
“We appreciate that schemes such as this are vital as energy prices soar and national insurance contributions and food prices increase,” said Cllr Cheney. “We are therefore grateful for everyone’s patience while we’ve worked hard to implement this new system.
“At the same time we know that for far too many people, a one-off £150 rebate won’t go far enough, and much more needs to be done. In Bristol, there were over 38,400 people in the city claiming Universal Credit at the start of the year, many of whom will now be feeling the pinch of welfare cuts introduced by the Government.
“We have a rental crisis with rent prices rocketing by 52 per cent over the past decade with no sign of this slowing down to allow wage growth to catch up. Our recent Quality of Life survey tells us that at least 10 per cent of people in the most deprived areas of the city have experienced food insecurity – that’s twice the number of people in that position the previous year.
“If you need help, please reach out. There is advice, support and information available across the city. We’ve been working on how we can provide additional help and have put support in place to try and soften the impact of rising costs. We’ve prioritised support for low-income households through being one of only a handful of councils that offer a 100 per cent council tax reduction scheme and there is also the local crisis prevention fund. If you aren’t eligible for these schemes but are in financial difficulty and are worried about paying your council tax bill please get in touch with us. We will do all we can to support you,” he added.
Who is entitled to the council tax rebate?
The scheme, announced by the Chancellor earlier this year, provides a one-off payment of £150 to most households living in homes in council tax bands A to D.
How will the money be paid?
If you pay your council tax by direct debit every month, the council will simply put the money into your account by Monday, May 16 – and will then send you a letter to confirm they’ve done it.
If you do not pay your council tax by direct debit, then you have to claim this money back. The council will put a form on its website from Monday, May 23, which people can go to and fill in, providing their bank details to receive this payment.
There will be an option there for people to just tell the council to keep the money and knock it off their next council tax bill.
If you don’t pay by direct debit and can’t or don’t want to access the internet to claim the money, then the council said: “A service will also be made available to help those who are not able to access the online form”.
If you pay by direct debit but the council hasn’t sent you the money by the end of next week, then they are suggesting people go online from May 23 and claim it.
What if you don’t need the money?
Bristol City Council said it is ‘conscious that some households may not feel they need the council tax rebate’. You might live in a Band A-D property and be both fairly well off and also altruistic, so don’t need the money.
So the council will be offering a scheme that enables people to donate all or part of it to help support those who are most in need in the city. “Some residents have already shown an interest in a scheme like this and if others would like to find out more, email firstname.lastname@example.org. It will not affect the provision of the rebate but will enable them to make a direct donation to local crisis funding,” the council said.
What if you need it but are not entitled to it?
While there are well-off people living in Band A-D homes, there are also people who need this £150 rebate who live in larger homes that are classified as Band E to Band H.
If that’s you, the council has also thought about you too.
“Bristol has also been allocated a discretionary fund as part of the scheme to help residents considered to be most in need of support,” said a council spokesperson. “This will support households living in Bristol in bands E to H who are in need or as well as those in bands A to D who are not eligible for the council tax rebate. Only one application can be made per household.
“Residents will need to apply using an online application form and will be asked to provide evidence, including council tax account number, photo ID and proof of address, to support the information provided in the application. Eligibility criteria will include that the person must be living within the Bristol City Council area as their main residence from Friday 1 April 2022 and they pay their energy costs directly to the energy supplier by bill or pre-payment meter, not as part of their rent.
“The process for the discretionary fund is being finalised and further information, including the full eligibility criteria and exclusions, will be provided on the Bristol City Council website as soon as possible,” they added.
A scam warning
As with most things like this, scammers are quick to leap onto the idea of people having to provide bank details to organisations. And there have already been reports of scammers phoning up unsuspecting residents and saying they are from the council, and asking for the bank details to get this rebate.
“Residents have also been warned about not falling foul to tax rebate telephone scams seen in other parts of the country,” a council spokesperson said. “The council has confirmed it will not be telephoning people to ask for their bank details in relation to the rebate.”
So if you get a phone call in Bristol about this council tax rebate, it’s a scam.
Follow the latest updates on this story and others like it here