Volunteers at a library in Sherburn-in-Elmet are helping “desperate” people who have not yet received their £150 council tax rebate because they are struggling to speak to the council by phone.
Selby District Council’s Labour group leader, Coun Bob Packham, raised concerns about the rebate system “not working well”.
The rebate was announced by Chancellor Rishi Sunak in February to ease the impact of soaring energy bills.
People who pay via direct debit in the Selby district have been receiving their payments automatically in recent days, but Coun Packham said he feared some residents were being left behind.
“There are residents, certainly in my ward, who are unable to get their rebate – they don’t pay by direct debit,” he said.
“They may well have bank accounts, I don’t know, but the difficulty they’ve had is getting in touch with the council. They are either not computer literate, therefore they can’t do it online, or they are unable to get through to the council switchboard, presumably because so many people are phoning up.”
He added: “I know this to be true because they have been coming in to Sherburn Library and saying to people there that they have not been able to claim their rebate and luckily our very marvellous volunteers in the library have been helping them on the library computers and helping them fill the forms.”
Coun Packham called on the council to find a way of “mopping up the people that we’re missing”.
“And if that means looking at the list of people that have rebates and writing to the others and inviting them to make sure that we get an application in writing or whatever, then I would advocate that,” he said.
“I suspect a lot of these people who are coming into the library are desperate for a reason.”
‘We’ll look into it’
The council’s chief executive, Janet Waggott, said: “The reason people can’t get through on the phone is because we’re helping people fill out the forms at the time and it’s taking longer, so I’m sorry about that – but we will absolutely look into it.
“This is at the forefront of our minds and we really do want to make sure that people who are in most need get that.
“We have looked at the deployment of staff and I will continue to make sure that we’re doing absolutely everything that we can.”
According to the council’s website, people who do not pay council tax via direct debit were issued a letter on May 4 inviting them to make an application.
A statement on the council’s website read: “Our phone lines are extremely busy with customers having long waits for calls to be answered. So that we can help our most vulnerable customers we politely ask that you do not contact us about the energy rebate unless absolutely necessary.”