Council services and your money

(16/04/2015) Are you getting everything you’re owed from your local authority?

Bin Lorry Richard W Ebb

Local government has such a significant influence over our ordinary lives. Yet it’s not always obvious what services councils and other local government bodies provide for you, or how to address the issue.

That’s why this week we’ve been talking to the Money Advice Service. MA is an independent service set up by government to advise the public on financial matters – so they’re perfectly placed to help you get the best from your local services.

And if you believe your local authority hasn’t provided the standards of service you expect from it – or you believe it owes you something – then you should raise the issue via resolver.co.uk

Local council help

Care costs - If you're disabled, elderly or have a long-term health condition that means you need support with day-to-day tasks, your local council might help with some or all of the costs. As well as providing places in residential care homes, local councils can help people with care needs to stay in their own homes. Your local council will decide whether you're eligible for funding and this will normally be the job of the social services department. Find out more about local council funding for care costs in our guide.

Council tax reduction schemes - You could be entitled to a discount that will reduce your Council Tax bill. For example, if you're the only adult in your household you'll get 25% off your Council Tax bill. If you only share your home with young people in full-time education, live-in carers, or someone with a severe mental disability, you may still qualify for this discount. You can also get Council Tax discounts if you're disabled; on a low income or suffering financial hardship or are using the property as a holiday home. Our guide gives you more tips on saving on your council tax.

Budgeting loans - If you're receiving certain income-related benefits and need help to pay for essentials like clothing, furniture or rent you might be able to get this interest-free loan. To be eligible, you must be currently receiving either Pension Credit, Income Support, income-based Jobseeker's Allowance or income-related Employment and Support Allowance. You need to have been claiming for at least 26 weeks, either consecutively or with a break of no more than 28 days. If you are interested in applying for one, read our budgeting loans guide.

Welfare assistance schemes - Benefit changes in 2013 now mean welfare grants and loans are available through your local council in England and the devolved administrations in Scotland and Wales. You can find out more about these schemes in our guide on benefit changes in 2013.

If you're struggling with debt, it can be difficult to know where to turn. However, there are free, confidential help and advice services across the UK, so you can find somewhere that is local to you. Use our debt advice locator tool to find out more.

Other benefits and entitlements

There are other benefits and entitlements you can look into that are provided by the government. These include benefits for if you are retired and if you are expecting children. Universal Credit is also being introduced in stages and will be fully rolled out by October 2017. It's a new simpler, single monthly payment for people looking for work or on a low income. Find out more about benefits and entitlements.

How is your local council spending your money?

If you wish to know how your local council spends its money, many of them provide information on their websites to show how they spend their budget. You can view details of payments for goods and services over £500 and contracts and tenders over £500.

Every year councils must also open their detailed financial accounts to the public for 20 working days. This allows you to check any spending under £500; as well as over £500. Your council must publish on its website and in the local press details of when you can check its accounts.

Find out more on the Gov.uk website.

All information accurate at time of publication

This article is provided by the Money Advice Service.

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