Fewer pensioners in Waverley received council tax support last year, as the total number of recipients in England reached a record low, new figures show.

Across England, fewer pensioners than ever received support to reduce their council tax bills, leading to eligible people missing out on the available financial support.

The Independent Age charity said the system is too difficult to navigate, and called on the Government and local authorities to create a simpler process, so everyone entitled to the support could easily get it.

Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities figures show 1,908 pensioners in Waverley received council tax support in the three months to December 2023 – down from 1,942 the same time the year before.

Overall, the total number of pensioners receiving the support dropped to a record low of 1.37 million, following a gradual decrease over the years since 2015, when around half a million more pensioners claimed it between October and November.

Morgan Vine, head of policy and influencing at Independent Age, said for older people on a low income, council tax reduction could mean the difference between affording food and heat, or risking their health.

She said: “Many people in later life told us they had struggled to keep up with their council tax bill last year, yet we know that awareness of the support available - for those living in financial hardship - to reduce this bill remains low.”

She also said the charity’s own research found many people were confused by the complexity of the council tax system.

“Ultimately this leads to eligible people missing out on available financial support,” she added.

“With the company Policy in Practice estimating that only 62% of people of all ages who are eligible for council tax reduction actually receive it, we are calling on the UK Government and local authorities to work together to create more automated processes so that everyone over pension age who is entitled to council tax reduction gets it.”

Another 2.34 million working age adults received the support across England, including 2,386 in Waverley.

Meanwhile, millions of households across the country are expected to see an increase in their council tax bills in April.

Local authorities across England collected £10.6 billion in the three months to December 2023, which was 6.5% more than the same time the previous year.

In Waverley, the council took £37.1 million through council tax – up 4% from £35.7 million in the third quarter of 2022.

A Department for Levelling Up spokesperson said: We encourage anyone concerned about their ability to pay council tax to contact their local council. Local council tax support schemes for those in financial hardship are administered by councils, although we require reductions of up to 100% to be provided to the lowest income pensioners.

A new process triggering automatic applications risks creating additional bureaucracy and cost for local authorities, as well as confusion for council tax payers.

For example, some pensioners who are entitled to other benefits may not be entitled to council tax support, and vice-versa. In view of this, we believe that the existing locally led approach to council tax support applications should be maintained, including for pensioners.