Rotherham Council reflects on tax rebate cash-in at pawn shops

ROTHERHAM Council’s leader has spoken of the lessons learned when residents without bank accounts cashed in the government’s £150 tax rebate for less money at pawn shops.

There were long queues outside town centre brokers in summer 2022 – with many accepting amounts as low as £134 for their cheques.

Residents paying their council tax by Direct Debit were given the money automatically but 34,000 households across the borough were sent a cheque.

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Independent Cllr Michael Bennett-Sylvester was told at last week’s full council meeting that there were no reliable figures for how many people had cashed the rebate for less than the full amount.

He said: “I’m sure we can agree it was quite a substantial number.

“When it went through the scrutiny process not one of the 59 of us envisaged seeing queues of people trying to cash them there.”

Cllr Bennett-Sylvester asked what RMBC had learned from the experience with regard to people with no access to traditional banking services.

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Council leader Cllr Chris Read said: “I think for me the number one lesson of that was about making clear the information and advice to residents that they could exchange those cheques for cash at the full value at council offices.

“That was the solution that we were able to embark on at the time but that wasn’t made clear to people right at the beginning.”

Cllr Read added RMBC had been the quickest council in the country in distributing the cheques out to residents, while authorities which set up voucher schemes had taken weeks longer.