SCOTTISH Borders Council has agreed to be more lenient after giving single people just two weeks to prove they are entitled to a council tax reduction.

Adults who live on their own, not counting children, are entitled to a 25% single occupancy council tax reduction.

However, on Wednesday March 13, Scottish Borders Council announced a region-wide review of who is currently receiving the discount, and sent letters to affected households demanding they fill out an online review before March 31.

Failure to do so, the letter says, will result in the discount being terminated.

Tweeddale East councillor Stuart Bell, who has been contacted by Scottish Borders residents about the letter, said: “There have been complaints on social media about the direct tone of the letter, a copy of which has been forwarded on to me.   

“I have told councillor Robin Tatler, the executive member for finance, that my concern is not so much the language, though that could be a little less blunt.

“I simply don’t think it is reasonable to give householders just two weeks to respond.  

“What if they are ill or away? This just generates anxiety.  

“The council should set an honest timescale and my question is intended to give councillor Tatler an opportunity to do this in public.”

Over 21,000 households across the Borders are currently in receipt of the reduction.

At a meeting of Scottish Borders Council on Thursday 28 March, councillor Bell asked councillor Tatler for an explanation.

Councillor Tatler told the chamber: “To ensure the best use of resources we used the annual council tax bills as an opportunity to issue an insert asking people to renew their entitlement to single occupancy discount online.

“To ensure a significant response residents were asked to confirm their status within a two week time period.

“Given the process is very straightforward, and that support is available from customer advice and support staff, we consider this a suitable time frame.

“However, I wish to assure you that reminders will be issued for those who have not responded before the deadline.”

In a follow up question,  councillor Bell asked: “It was an insert, and we got a members briefing.

“That members briefing had a timescale on it which is different from the timescale that is on this insert.

“The insert isn’t headed or branded by Scottish Borders Council, nor is it signed. It does look like an important notice and has resulted in some anxiety amongst the recipients of this.

“I think we need to find a way of giving a more tempered statement to the public that indicates a more reasonable approach and gives some assurance to residents.”

To which councillor Tatler replied: “Since I got this, I’ve held a meeting with council directors, and we discussed a number of issues, including the formatting of these and those points have been taken on board, and the deadlines on the reminder letters will be increased.

“You might like to know that as now, we have received 13,927 responses out of 20,550 households that receive this discount.”