More than 320,000 households across the North East will not automatically receive a £ 150 council tax rebate.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced last month that taxpayers in band A to D homes across the country would get the one-off payment to help deal with the escalating cost of living crisis.
But the money will only be automatically sent into people’s bank accounts from April if they pay their council tax bill via direct debit – something that many thousands of people across the region do not do.
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It means that anyone who pays by another means, such as by check or over the phone, faces having to apply separately in order to get the rebate they are entitled to.
It is feared that many of those who will not get the £ 150 payment will be the poorest families, including those who do not have a bank account.
Councils across the North East have confirmed that there are roughly 323,000 band A to D households in the region that do not use direct debit to pay their council tax – almost 57,000 in Newcastle, 40,000 in Northumberland, around 31,000 in North Tyneside, 45,000 in Sunderland , 36,000 in Gateshead, 30,000 in South Tyneside, and 84,000 in County Durham.
The councils indicated that they would be encouraging residents to sign up for direct debits if they are able to, but several said they were still awaiting guidance from the Government on how other people will be able to access the rebate.
Sunderland City Council’s cabinet secretary, Coun Paul Stewart, warned that those who needed the money most would find it hardest to claim their £ 150.
He said: “It’s unfortunate and regrettable that once again the Government has introduced a policy that will directly hit struggling families without bank accounts or those that pay through other means such as cash and making it more difficult for those in most need to claim this rebate . ”
Coun Joanne Bell, lead member for resources and innovation at South Tyneside Council, added: “We are still awaiting clarity from Government on the other options that may be available to those who do not sign up to direct debit and will ensure that our communications channels are updated as soon as we have that information.
“However it is anticipated that there is likely to be an application process required for these customers.
“I am disappointed that the Government has not thought through the significant practicalities at a time when bills are being issued to households for the new financial year, but I can assure residents that everyone will get the money that they are entitled to.”
The Department for Leveling Up, Housing and Communities has urged taxpayers to switch to direct debit in order to avoid difficulties and says local councils will be reimbursed for the extra costs of setting up a separate application form process for people who do not.
A Government spokesperson said: “Direct debit is the quickest and easiest way to pay council tax, and the best way for most people to get the rebate.
“Eligible households who do not pay their council tax by direct debit will be invited to make a claim. Councils will be reimbursed for their administration costs. ”
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