The Local Government Association (LGA) believes poor families are missing out on council tax rebates because the rules for claiming relief are complex and poorly communicated.
Sir Jeremy Beecham, the association's vice-chairman, said: 'Council tax benefit is failing society's most vulnerable ... An eye-watering £1.8bn goes unclaimed every year.'
The LGA wants the DWP, headed by secretary of state James Purnell, to launch a campaign to encourage take-up of council tax rebates, in particular among pensioners. LGA senior media officer Nick Mann said that 'as far as we know the DWP is doing very little to encourage people to get their money'.
However, the DWP is standing its ground. A spokesperson said: 'The department does a lot of work with local councils to help with the take-up of council tax benefit and housing benefit.
'For example, we have a leaflet that has been provided to local councils to distribute with their council tax bills and when bills are sent out, the department works with local media to highlight council tax benefit and encourages take-up via interviews with ministers and local councillors. Alongside this, we have made it much easier for customers on benefits to claim council tax benefit.'
He added: 'We continue to look at what more needs to be done to help raise awareness of the benefit among customers and, importantly, make it easier for them to claim it.'