It's that time of the year again.... Council Tax rise letters ...
Yup, mine hit the door mat yesterday, and guess what, it wasn't good news! A 4.8% increase overall, which is very annoying to say the least... I got a 0% increase in my wages, (actually a decrease as I'm still on part time furlough), and so it's another £10 a month we need to find, meaning we have even less disposable every month.
I'm not alone, of course, apparently the average increase in England is around 6%, (factoring in London), so maybe I shouldn't complain, as we are below that, but it still hurts!
I'm paying over 10 months, so will have the last 2 months of the financial year not having to pay any council tax, which will be welcome of course, but it's still the same amount of money being paid of course, but it is a nice thought knowing we will have 2 months of extra cash to play with. You are able to change your payment schedule to 12 months, which lowers the monthly cost, which if money is super tight, is a useful option.
Last year, the council were offering an option for people who have been negatively, financially, affected by Covid, the option to change the 2 months where no payment is due, to the beginning of the financial year, instead of the end of the year, so to give people some breathing room, which for our situation was super helpful as I was put on Furlough from the 1st April, and the 20% reduction in income, was mopped up by not having to pay £168 per month, for April & May. If you are in a financial rut, due to Covid, many councils are still offering the nil payment swap option, so it's worth giving them a call. It took me 5 minutes when I called, and so it was super easy to sort out.
You may be able to lower your council tax payments if:
You're on a low income.
You're a student or you live with students.
You live alone or are the only adult in your home.
You get certain benefits, such as Jobseekers Allowance, Income Support, Pension Credit, Employment and Support Allowance and Universal Credit.
The above are classified as council tax support. If you pay council tax on your home and you are on a low income, you may be able to get help paying your bill. If you are entitled to help, the council will pay the council tax support directly onto your council tax account for the whole year. This means you will get a reduced council tax bill.
You will need to fill out a form. Below is an example from my local council.
You will need to explain the reason for your application, and will need to, in most cases, to submit proof.
If accepted, your will need to still pay a small amount of your bill, at a minimum of 12%, which in my case would mean my bill would change to around £22.32 a month, from £186.00, so a significant change.
It's also worth checking that you are actually on the right council tax band. It's estimated that up to 20% of the UK, could be paying the wrong amount of council tax, due to the council having incorrect information on file for your address.
It's not massively complicated to get your council tax looked at, but it's worth doing your homework first to make sure that you aren't wasting your time! You can quickly see what you and your neighbours are banded as, via the Direct Gov Valuation List this will let you check what band you are in, and what your neighbours are in. If your neighbours, who have a very similar property to you, are banded differently, then it's worth speaking to the council and requesting a valuation review.
It may be that your neighbour is in the wrong band, and you may be off the Christmas card list, if a review discovers that they are indeed paying too little, as they will be asked to pay a backdated bill, however if you are correct, then you, and possibly they, make end up getting a back dated refund!
There is a bit more to it, the video below is an example highlighted by Martin Lewis, who goes into it all in more detail, plus there is a calculator to check to see if you may be on the wrong band on a his website here that's super useful! Sadly it looks like I'm in the right band, so no flukey, back dated refund, for me, looks like I need to get Side Hustling....