Age Scotland surveyed over 50s across Scotland on their views of the policy
Scots councils should ensure they offer households a choice about how they receive the £150 energy bill cash payment due in April, according to a charity.
Kate Forbes, finance secretary, recently announced that everyone in receipt of Council Tax reduction and households in Council Tax bands A-D will qualify for an £150 energy bill support payment.
Age Scotland surveyed over 50s across Scotland on their views of the policy, and whether a direct payment of £150 or a deduction on their Council Tax bill would be the most useful way to support them with rising energy bills.
There was a clear majority (58.8%) whose preference is for a direct cash payment and 41.2% felt like a discount of this amount on their Council Tax bill would be of most use to them.
Local authorities will have the flexibility to choose whether to provide payments via a direct cash payment or, perhaps, as a discount to the household’s Council Tax bill. The charity has written to all councils and COSLA urging them to ensure that eligible households receive this financial support in the way which best meets their individual needs, fulfilling the intended purpose of the policy, and avoid just crediting council tax accounts with a £150 discount.
For people in receipt of full Council Tax Reduction and only need to pay for two thirds of their water and sewerage charges via their local council, a £150 discount may only be worth around £20 a month so the immediate financial benefit to help with energy costs wouldn’t be felt.
For example, if a household receiving full Council Tax Reduction living in a Band A property also receives the maximum reduction in waste and water charges of 35%, they would still have an annual bill of £198.98. A £150 discount on this would have a very low monthly benefit on their cashflow.
Brian Sloan, chief executive at Age Scotland, said: “We’re calling on all councils and COSLA to avoid a blanket policy of only offering a discount on Council Tax and ensure that they offer households in Scotland a choice about how they receive this support to best meets their needs. Our research has shown that a clear majority of over 50s feel that a direct cash payment would be the most helpful means of support, but a large number would prefer their Council Tax bill to be discounted, demonstrating how important it is to offer people this choice.
“A direct cash payment would give households the flexibility to best react to the financial shock imposed by the extraordinary increase in energy unit costs come April so we hope that local authorities can find a way to make this happen.
“The benefit of delivering the payments to households directly would ensure the money does what it is intended to do – help people to take the edge off the rising cost of their energy bills, mitigating against some of the increasing cost of living. By providing a direct payment, people will be empowered to use the money to best suit their financial circumstances.”