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Lyons calls for council tax overhaul

'Let's end the stigma'

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A review into local government funding has said that council tax benefit should be renamed and the system fully automated.

Launching the long awaited Lyons Inquiry report into the future role, function, and funding of local government, Sir Michael Lyons said: "Council tax benefit should be renamed as rebate" to end the stigma which sees £1.8bn go unclaimed, mainly by pensioners.

"In the short term, we recommend, councils should share data with the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and in the longer term the system should be fully automated. DWP has done a lot of work in this area," he told GC.

Nick Raynsford MP told GC: "Millions of pensioners are paying £1.8bn in council tax. An awareness take-up campaign won't be enough to help them. We need something radical, which is why the recommendation of changing the name may help."

DWP has undertaken a pilot with 12 local authorities on data sharing. The results will be announced in the near future.

A DWP spokesperson said: "A lot of work has been done to make council tax accessible to pensioners. If they are claiming pension credit, housing benefit or state pension they are most likely eligible for council tax benefit and all that can be determined through one phone call.

"The Pension Service also makes 23,000 visits to pensioners raise awareness. As pensioners tend to be more static, work is underway to automate the system."

Communities and Local Government said in a statement: "We will consider carefully what Sir Michael Lyons says about reducing the impact of council tax on pensioners, in particular through improvements to the way the interface with the benefit system works.

"The government agrees that local authorities can do much more to encourage the take-up of council tax benefit and wants to work with local government to deliver further improvements in this measure.

"We will consider the wider proposals on council tax benefit in the light of practicalities and affordability alongside priorities for the tax and benefit system as a whole."

This article was originally published at Kablenet.

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