ALMOST 2,000 pensioners are losing out on help to pay their council tax in Wiltshire, figures show.

Charities warn that vulnerable households may be missing out on the vital support they are entitled to, as the number of elderly people accessing support across England continues to plunge.

Low-income households and pensioners in England can apply for a discount or exemption on their council tax under the Council Tax Reduction Scheme.

In Wiltshire, 10,355 pensioners were claiming support in the three months to December, Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government figures show.

That was a 16 per cent drop compared to the same period in 2015, meaning 1,973 fewer people were receiving the help.

The scheme replaced the nationally-administered Council Tax Benefit in 2013, giving individual local authorities the power to decide who is eligible for support and what discounts to offer.

But Turn2us, a charity which helps people in financial hardship, says vulnerable households are struggling to navigate an increasingly complex and confusing system.

Campaigns manager Varuk Kanish said: “Not since the poll tax have so many low-income households had to pay local taxes.

“The localisation of Council Tax Support schemes has increased the complexity of an already confusing system, resulting in more people missing out.

“We urge the Government to review this system and consider automatic entitlement for people who are struggling.”

He added that a move towards online services – driven in part by budget pressures – may be impacting older people.

The Government says it has protected pensioners, and that they continue to receive the same level of support as under the previous system.

However, there were 310,000 fewer pensioners claiming support in England last year than in 2015 – a 17 per cent drop.

Out of 317 local authorities, only one did not see a fall in pensioner claimants.

Caroline Abrahams from Age UK said it is important that anyone entitled to claim the benefit does so, as it can make a huge difference.

She said: “Given that there are 2 million pensioners in poverty, it is worrying that the numbers claiming council tax support have fallen.

“For those already struggling to meet essential costs, the prospect of this year’s council tax bills arriving soon will be one extra thing to worry about.”

A Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government spokeswoman said: “We’re committed to levelling up across the country with councils in England having access to £49.2 billion next year – the biggest annual real-terms increase in spending power in a decade.

“Councils, not central government, are best placed to know what their communities need and are responsible for delivering services for residents, including providing an appropriate level of council tax support.

“People experiencing difficulty paying their council tax should approach the billing authority to discuss their situation.”