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are the council BU to refuse to look at this until September?

(20 Posts)
Akallabeth Thu 24-Mar-16 11:45:07

This is benefit related so I'm fully expecting to get flamed but, as our circumstances right now are pretty desperate, we have no option but to claim them at the moment.

As part of that I was getting a reduction in my council tax bill last year, meaning I only had to pay £35 per month rather than the full amount. This was fine and I was expecting it to rise a little this year, but I received the new bill last night and I'm now going to have to pay £98.

I spent the evening trying to budget for this new amount but there is no way around it, I simply cannot afford to pay this bill AND buy enough food to feed us all each month. I've already cut back on everything I can and we are living on the bare essentials only.

So this morning I phoned the council to ask them about this huge increase. It turns out that they were previously working out my income by adding together my wages plus the tax credits (including childcare) then deducting the amount of childcare I paid. That was fine but now, they are now longer going to subtract the amount I pay in childcare but they WILL still count the child tax credits childcare payments as my income. This means they claim I have more to pay council tax (and other bills plus food etc.) from each month than I in reality do.

To top it all off, they are also refusing to look at this assessment again until September and only then if I have proof of childcare payments. I will do, and according to my own calculations the council tax will go down considerably then, but as they will only apply them retrospectively I will still be liable to pay the higher amount from now until then. Which I simply can't afford to do sad

Are they BU for working things out this way, instead of how they did it previously? And refusing to even look at it again until September (I could send them my monthly childcare invoices for example)? Or AIBU (probably) for expecting hand-outs in the form of a council tax reduction, so that the money I earn can actually be spent on feeding my children?

Alfieisnoisy Thu 24-Mar-16 11:51:50

Oh my goodness that sounds very stressful. Councils seem to work in bizarre ways and to be honest I don't know the answer to your question. Personally I think it is unreasonable if you will be left with so little, my advice would be to get an appointment with the CAB as quickly as you can so that you can double check they are giving the correct advice.

YANBU for needing a council tax reduction if you are already on benefits.

I suspect one or both of you are also working if you need to claim for childcare too which might make a difference to how they work things out. Sympathies as a low income is hard when also paying council tax.

Danglyweed Thu 24-Mar-16 11:52:59

Most councils have discretionary funds. Try google your local authority.

wonderingsoul Thu 24-Mar-16 12:06:50

I didn't think they where allowed to take into account the childcare element of working tax.

RubbleBubble00 Thu 24-Mar-16 12:09:01

Is there an appeal system?

pambeesley Thu 24-Mar-16 12:14:57

I would speak to your councillor directly as they will be able to go and speak to people directly for you and get through some of the beuracracy.

Akallabeth Thu 24-Mar-16 12:20:13

Sorry I forgot to say I'm a lone parent (2 children) and I do work as many hours as I can each week, but unfortunately its a very low paid job. I am studying alongside so that hopefully I can get a better paid one in a year or two, but right now this is all I can manage to bring in for us. The DC's father pays nothing toward their upkeep and hasn't seen them in over 5 years.

I've spoken to CAB and they weren't able to help either. The advisor was just googling stuff anyway which I could do myself and was the one who suggested I call the council to explain my circumstances. Discretionary fund is only for people on full benefits (JSA etc.) apparently so I don't qualify as I work and even then it is only available once you get more than 2 months into arrears with Council tax payments and it is going to court.

Lurkedforever1 Thu 24-Mar-16 12:25:02

They aren't meant to include childcare as income, so Yanbu. And saying they won't look at it till September isn't good enough. Put your query in writing or email, i.e traceable evidence as they'll respond in the same way. Ask for a copy of their procedure for calculating income, and specifically where it states childcare costs are counted as income. And see if they are willing to lie to you that way too. Or, if you just spoke to somebody who was clueless, rather than lying deliberately, a written request might get passed to someone with a clue.

If there is still no luck, contact your mp.

travellinghopefully12 Thu 24-Mar-16 12:30:02

The council are being hugely unreasonable and this is horrendous for you to have to deal with. The childcare element of tax credits should not be taken into account, and by forcing you to pay that amount for six months they are acting illegally.

There is a Local Government Ombudsman - www.lgo.org.uk/publications/fact-sheets/complaints-about-housing-benefit/

"Where we find that there has been unreasonable delay, we usually recommend a payment to recognise the anxiety and inconvenience caused. If you have got into arrears because of the delay, and your landlord is trying to evict you or the council has taken you to court for a council tax debt, we may ask for compensation for the additional distress. "

Be sure you complain to the council first, and keep your paperwork. Drop it by the office yourself and ask them to stamp your copy so you have evidence they have received it otherwise they might lose it.

Birdsgottafly Thu 24-Mar-16 12:32:27

They should be disregarding the childcare element.

Is there anyway that you can go into a One Stop Shop and have the advisor go through a calculation and do an income/outgoing assessment form?

NeedsAsockamnesty Thu 24-Mar-16 12:46:22

Have they said why they are no longer deducting childcare costs?

That bit of info is essential for example

Lauren has £200 cc costs per week she goes on maternity leave she is still entitled to have her cc costs deducted for her OML because she still had cc costs in the week prior to commencing OML

But

Sue has £200 per week cc costs she took unpaid leave for 5 weeks prior to commencing ML and did not have cc costs during this time
She's cc costs would no longer be exempt.

It would be unusual for you to still qualify for the WTC cc element and not have it exempte from HB

NeedsAsockamnesty Thu 24-Mar-16 12:50:22

They often also disallow cc costs exemption if they have sent a request to confirm cc costs or provide evidence and that has not been forthcoming

Akallabeth Thu 24-Mar-16 13:06:00

They have said that they are no longer deducting childcare costs UPFRONT and are instead only deducting them RETROSPECTIVELY, every 6 months (if you have sent in proof of costs by that point) in September and March.

However they are still counting the WTC childcare payments as income UPFRONT and not retrospectively, the same as they do with other income e.g wages. They said they are doing this because people's childcare payments often fluctuate throughout the year. I know this is true, but some people's wages also do too.

They don't, for example, write to you saying they THINK you will get a huge pay rise this year, but if you haven't received it in 6 months let them know and you'll get a Council Tax refund. But effectively this is what they are doing with childcare. They THINK I am not going to pay any this year but if I do I can tell them about it later and I'll get a refund. Over the course of the full year I'd pay exactly the same, but that doesn't help me now as I can't afford to pay UPFRONT then receive a refund back at a later date.

NeedsAsockamnesty Thu 24-Mar-16 13:23:56

That's outragious.

Get thee to a respected benefits advice service and if you have the balls and can do it legally challenge the decision.

Akallabeth Thu 24-Mar-16 13:28:44

Not sure I explained that very well in the last post so I'll try again with examples.

So lets say that they full council tax is £1000 per year.

Last year they looked at my income (wages+tax credits) then deducted childcare costs. These were all predicted amounts based on the previous year (all evidence supplied) because Council Tax is always worked out in advance for the year ahead (as are tax credits).

So Income-childcare= £400 Council Tax to pay for the year. OK fine.

This year they are looking at income same as before, but not deducting any childcare costs in advance. This is despite Tax credits still paying them in advance (becuase I have supplied them with all required evidence)

So it is now just Income-NO CHILDCARE= £1000 Council Tax to pay for the year.

Then at the end of the year they look at the childcare costs and work out: Income-childcare= I should have only paid £400, so they refund me the £600.

Works out that I've paid the same amount overall but I don't actually have that extra £600 to pay out now, for the council to refund me later in the year. If I did then I wouldn't be in a position where I needed to ask for any help with paying my council tax sad

LizzieMacQueen Thu 24-Mar-16 13:33:12

What happens if you don't pay?

TJEckleburg Thu 24-Mar-16 13:33:37

Please find out who your county councillor is and e-mail them about this and ask them to bring it up with the council officers

OzzieFem Thu 24-Mar-16 14:14:48

So in other words they are getting interest paid on Tax Credits that have not been applied immediately but retrospectively? Interesting, I wonder how much extra money they would collect from applying this to the entire council area.

Akallabeth Thu 24-Mar-16 19:52:46

What happens if I don't pay? From what I've found out, I'll get 2 reminders, then it will be sent to court. An extra amount in charges/fines gets added on to the amount I owe, then they will apply to take the money direct from my wages each month. So no way of getting out of paying it really and if I let it go that far I'd end up paying even more. If I somehow did manage to avoid paying though apparently I could go to prison shock

To make matters worse, tonight I've come home to another letter from the council, this time regarding the housing benefit. They are using the same calculations for that as with the council tax so I'll now need to find another £100 per month to cover my rent too. I have absolutely no idea how we are going to cope.

I'll try finding some contact details for my local councillor now and see if they can help.

LizzieMacQueen Fri 25-Mar-16 09:17:06

That's crap, hope you get the advice you need.

I wonder if it is nationwide that councils are having to make such drastic cutbacks.

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