Council accused of hiding new tax payment optionBy Laura Nightingale
March 12, 2013
TAXPAYERS feel as if they have been left in the dark following payment changes to their council tax bills.
From April, homeowners in Hart will for the first time be able to pay for their council tax in 12 monthly instalments instead of 10 to help them manage their finances.
The new legislation passed by the government means that this year council tax payers in Hart can now request to pay their bills over a longer period of time, lowering their monthly bills and so easing the financial burden.
From March 18 taxpayers will receive information in the post about the changes with their annual council tax bill letter.
However, some people in Hart felt that the district council, which adopted the legislation, have kept quiet about the changes and as a result are concerned that they will not be able to pay the first instalment in time.
Susan Perkins, of Lawford Crescent, Yateley, said: “There is no way on God’s Earth that people will get their bill, read it through and send it off in time for their first instalment.
“My first instalment goes out on April 1 and banks may not be able to set up new direct debits in time.
“People should have known about it earlier considering the government decided on it in the middle of last year.
“We should have been sent a letter last year so that the admin can be set up ready.
“I think it is my right to know that there would be a change in the system and I am very angry about it.”
She said she was annoyed that the council had not informed residents about the changes on the council’s website.
Mrs Perkins added: “I think 12 monthly instalments will help people budget better in this tough economic climate.
“Most people are getting pay cuts not rises, so if we can budget more easily it makes life easier.”
Councillor Stuart Bailey, Hart district councillor for Yateley East, said that Mrs Perkins may have ‘jumped the gun’.
Cllr Bailey said: “The council already has plans in place for residents to move to 12 monthly payments.
“The council will issue letters to taxpayers with the amended council tax bill instalments in the next two to three weeks.
“The budget had not been approved prior to last week’s cabinet meeting to inform residents about the change.
“I did raise the concerns by Mrs Perkins to the chief executive who this week telephoned Mrs Perkins.
“You are still paying the same overall amount but it will be spread over 12 months instead of 10.
“For people looking to do their own household budget, it may be a more comfortable way to manage their budgets.”
Cllr Bailey said taxpayers would still be able to pay in one lump some if they wished, but there would be no discount whichever method they chose.
Tony Higgins, head of finance at Hart District Council, said: “It was the government that changed it.
“The change will give taxpayers the option to pay over 10 months or 12 months.
“I expect the vast majority will continue paying over 10 months as they quite like the feeling they are getting January and February off.
“If we had issued another letter to taxpayers that would have been another 40,000 letters and would have incurred additional costs.
“It seemed like a sensible idea not to. I think most councils will be doing the same.”
Hart District Council and Hampshire County Council have both frozen their shares of the council tax this year.
The district’s council tax goes towards services such as planning, refuse collection, street cleaning, environmental health and CCTV.