Desperate Brits have been queuing at pawnbroker shops to cash in their £150 council tax rebates because they cannot afford to wait for the money.
One pawnbroker – Cash Shop in Rotherham, South Yorkshire, had to briefly turn customers away on Thursday because demand was so high that they ran out of money.
The store charges 7.9% commission and a £2.99 handling fee leaving those cashing in a £150 rebate cheque with around £135.
More than 50 people were seen queuing outside the Cash Shop on Wednesday after 200 people were reported there the previous day.
It received a delivery of cash at 1pm – but some customers had been waiting two hours by then.
Other pawnshops in the town centre had erected signs which read: “We do not cash cheques.”
The money is being dished out by local authorities to the most hard-up households to help with the cost of living crisis.
For those who do not pay their council tax through direct debit, a cheque is issued instead.
Rotherham Council advised using a bank, post office or the local authority to avoid fees.
But some of those waiting in line said they couldn’t afford to wait days for a cheque to clear through their bank.
Terri Sykes, 34,, went down to the shop to cash the cheque in and gave up when she saw the queue.
The woman, from Rotherham, said: “They’ve sent it to my partner even though I’m the one who does all the finances and he doesn’t have a bank account.
“We’re in the middle of moving house so I haven’t got time to queue, it is a mess.”
Carly Stubbs, 32, queued outside a Ramsdens pawnbrokers. She said: “I’ve been down three times now and each the queue is a mile long.
“I’m with Monzo so there isn’t an in-person bank, you have to send it off and it takes weeks.”
Aaron Parker, 39, told a local radio station his bank had shut his local branch so would have had to walk seven miles to Sheffield to cash it into his bank.
He said he was desperate for cash as he had no gas or electricity and had been reduced to rummaging through bins for food on a night.
Aaron said the money from his council tax rebate would allow him to pay some bills and buy back his phone from Cash Convertors, which he had previously sold for £35.
He said: “I got £134 so lost £16 but that money will get me through today.”
One man, who did not wish to be named, criticised the council’s delivery of the rebate, which saw 31,000 cheques issued in the past week.
Speaking outside the Cash Shop, he said: “It just shows that those in power don’t really know what goes in in people’s lives.
“Not everybody has access to a bank account or can wait for the cash to clear. We need the money, I know I do. I’m overdrawn so if I put it in my bank, all I’d do is reduce my overdraft, I wouldn’t actually see the benefit, so I’d rather cash it in and be able to use it.”
Councillor Chris Read, Leader of Rotherham Council said: “Making these Council Tax energy support payments within the criteria set by Government has been extremely challenging for all Councils.
“We know people are struggling so our aim has been to get the money to them as quickly possible and we looked at a number of options for doing this, without the need for an application process.
“Over 114,000 payments have been made to date, which accounts for nearly all eligible households in Rotherham. We believe we are one of just a few areas of the country which has managed that so quickly.
“31,000 cheques have been issued in the last week, predominantly to people who don’t pay their Council Tax by direct debit. We advise that people pay this into their bank account.
“If people would sooner not cash the cheque or pay it into a bank account themselves, they have the option of returning it with their bank details if they wish, so that we can pay the money direct into their account at no cost.
“We are also offering the opportunity to people who don’t have a bank account to return the cheque with their phone number so that we can make an appointment for them to receive a cash payment.
“Unfortunately there is no perfect solution or template for making payments on this scale to suit everybody’s circumstances and everyone is trying to make the best of this difficult situation.”