South Scotland MSP Colin Smyth is urging people on low incomes to ensure they claim council tax exemption after a Freedom of Information request by Scottish Labour showed that only around 2,000 people across Scotland had been awarded the new benefit and Dumfries and Galloway Council had so far been unable to say how many within the region had qualified.
The scheme was introduced to protect low income households being hit by changes made by the Scottish Government to Council Tax bands which increased council tax for all those in houses from band E to band H.
The tax rise raised an extra £110m but to cushion the blow for those on low incomes a new benefit was introduced which it was estimated 54,000 households across Scotland would qualify for. However, Scottish Labour has revealed that fewer than 2,000 households have been awarded the new benefit, which was introduced in April 2017 and Dumfries and Galloway Council had been unable to confirm how many where within the region.
Up to a third of those estimated to be eligible for the reduction are pensioners.
South Scotland MSP Colin Smyth said, “This new benefit was designed to ensure that people on low incomes who live in a home with a council tax band from E to H would be protected from the Scottish Governments decision to increase council tax for people in those properties. Those may well be the properties with a higher value but that doesn’t always mean the occupier has a large income. In particular, older people may have lived in the family home for many years but have retired and are relying purely on their pension.
“Over 50,000 households across Scotland were meant to benefit from this exemption from higher council tax charges, including here in Dumfries and Galloway, but so far take up has been poor and Dumfries and Galloway Council can’t even say how many people from region our region have taken up the new benefit. However, it’s pretty clear from the response across the Scotland that the number in our region is likely to only be a handful when it should be hundreds if not thousands.”“Struggling families and pensioners in our region are clearly missing out on key support and facing higher Council Tax bills as a result.
“The SNP Government need to do more ensure everyone gets the benefits that they are entitled to, as these figures highlight just what a failure the new benefit has been so far”.