The leader of a Kent council has launched a stinging attack on the government over the way it has handled a £150 council tax rebate to help households meet spiralling fuel prices.
Cllr Roger Truelove, the Labour leader of Swale council, said the government had "introduced the least effective measure in the least effective way".
"The subsidy will not offer much help to people facing massive rises in fuel costs," he said.
"It would be far better to put a one-off windfall tax on the unprecedented profits being made by the fuel companies.
"The inevitable argument that this will hamper investment is tosh as the companies could not have anticipated this surge of income when making their capital plans."
The council was "frustrated by the way the government makes these snap decisions and then expects local councils to do all the work", he added.
"We do have our business to do," continued Cllr Truelove. "We are now having to trace 55,000 council taxpayers, who in some cases won't be the payer of the fuel bills.
"We will do all we can to make this work but it looks as though the government thinks that we have unlimited resources to do their work."
Meanwhile, MPs have also expressed disquiet over the discount and have urged the government to provide more clarity about how the scheme will be managed.
A cross-party committee of MPs says the £150 rebate has left councils with a financial headache.
KentOnline recently revealed how tens of thousands of households across the county who did not pay their council tax by direct debit would not automatically receive the discount.
Several councils said they were waiting for guidance from the government – with just weeks to go before bills are set to go out.
"The government needed to ensure that qualifying households received prompt support, but have instead imposed the burden of responsibility and bureaucracy on to local authorities."
Now MPs on the Levelling Up select committee have raised questions about elements of the scheme.
These include asking how qualifying households without a bank account will get the £150 rebate, the access to the rebate for those not using direct debits and whether those in pension credit will receive the council tax rebate in full.
Clive Betts, chairman of the LUHC Committee, said: “The government has made significant efforts to get good headlines for introducing the £150 rebate.
"However, it has now left local authorities with the headache of managing the allocation of these payments.
"Additionally, it has now emerged that access to the rebate will be difficult for those who do not pay through direct debit.
"The government needed to ensure that qualifying households received prompt support, but have instead imposed the burden of responsibility and bureaucracy on to local authorities.
“The Secretary of State needs to spell out how households, including those who receive council tax support or who receive pension credit, will receive the rebate.
"There also needs to be more clarity on what will happen in households where tenants pay their council tax to their landlord.
"Payments must go to tenants and we need to avoid the prospect of landlords receiving multiple rebates.
“The rebate is welcome but we need to know more from Whitehall about what they are doing to support local councils deliver this policy and provide firm assurances that councils will not be hit by further costs from administering the rebates.”
The government has urged people to set up direct debits with their local council and says those that do not will be contacted by their council and invited to make a claim.
Around 20 million households in council tax bands A to D – including 95% of rented properties – are set to benefit from the £3 billion council tax rebate, which does not have to be repaid