Delays of up to six months as council tax rebate scheme descends into chaos

North Tyneside council described the rebate scheme as a “significant challenge” and said it hoped to make payments in May. However, it hinted that some people could have to wait until the end of September.

Colchester said it would make payments from next month but warned that some residents will have to wait until September. A spokesman for the authority said its software’s primary function was “collecting money, not giving it out”.

He said: “Every local authority has had to design a process that lists all eligible recipients and establish a means of paying them. They have to create their own checking process to avoid paying the rebate more than once or to an ineligible household.

“Waiting for our software developer to give us a means of paying en masse gives us the best possibility of avoiding error, fraud and offering an easily accessible audit trail.”

Harlow Council told residents it needed to carry out tests on payment software before it could issue rebates. Some 77 councils have to use software developed by the outsourcing firm Capita – but it was only launched on April 19.   

Hastings Council has said it will not be making payments until after council tax bills in April are paid and an external firm has carried out “necessary audit checks” to minimise payments being sent to the wrong people or fraudsters. 

Residents who do not pay via direct debit face the longest waits because they must actively claim it back. Some councils are yet to set up the portal to accept requests. 

Authorities have come under fire for failing to ready the payments to coincide with the cost of living crunch, especially given that the scheme was announced at the start of February.

Danielle Boxall, of the Taxpayers’ Alliance, accused councils of “unnecessary bureaucratic busywork”. 

Shaun Davies of the Local Government Association, the body for councils, said councils were acting in line with Government guidance, but conceded there would be delays. 

State rules allow local authorities to carry out checks and withhold the payouts until September to protect against fraud and abuse of the scheme. However, guidelines said the grants should be paid as close to April 1 as possible to provide “immediate relief”. 

A government spokesman said “many councils” had started issuing the rebates, and expected “the rest to begin payments shortly”. 

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