The Government has slashed the rebates it gives to low-income pensioners on their council tax and rent. The cuts only apply to those born on 1 April 1955 or later, a group that first reached the state pension age of 66 this year, but more than two million people are eligible for
rebates that they’re not claiming.


Low-income pensioners can get all their council tax paid if their income is less than £191.15 a week (or if they’re in a couple, with joint income less than £286.05 a week). But in England the income level to get council tax reduced to zero has now been cut to £177.10 a week (£279.30 a week for couples) for any pensioner born 1 April 1955 or later. People with incomes above these levels can get some council
tax paid, but the new rules mean younger pensioners in England will get £146 less per year when compared with older pensioners.

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They should still claim, though, because if their weekly income exceeds those levels by £100 or more, they can still get some help. Startlingly, up to two million pensioners could claim council tax help but have not applied.

Similar changes are being made in the rules regarding housing benefit, which gives low income pensioners money off their rent. These rules apply throughout the UK and the effect of the changes is that low-income pensioners born on 1 April 1955 or later will have to pay £9.13 a week more of their rent than older pensioners. Housing benefit applies to rents paid to private landlords, housing associations or local councils. And, again, up to 240,000 pensioners could claim help with their rent but fail to do so.

Housing benefit and council tax reduction are claimed from your local council or authority. Ask yours about its reduction scheme and, if you pay rent, about housing benefit, too. In Northern Ireland housing benefit covers rates as well as rent.

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Paul Lewis presents Money Box on Radio 4.