Households in England will be able to spread their council tax payments over the full tax year, rather than over 10 months as now, from April.

The existing regime makes it more difficult to budget properly, and paying over 10 months means that when residents pay, they pay more each month than if it was split evenly.

However, the new system, which starts in April with the next tax year, will ease those problems.

The Government says the move will lower band D council tax instalments by an average of £24 per month. Of course, it won't change how much households pay overall, just when they pay it.

How to change

To get your payments switched to 12 months, contact your council as soon as possible – each one will have its own deadline for switching bills, so check.

Local authorities are however required to reissue new bills for those switching to payments over 12 months by 15 April, so it's likely your deadline to let the council know is before this date.

We understand some councils don't like this initiative as it may impact their cash flow, meaning they might not tell you about it. But you still have a right to get payments spread over 12 months, so ask.  

Communities Secretary Eric Pickles says: "These sensible measures will make paying easier, giving taxpayers a little more room for manoeuvre and bring down their monthly outgoings."

Ministers are also urging councils to follow the example of utility companies in offering discounts to customers who pay online or by direct debit.

The Government has set aside £450 million, which was designed to ensure council tax bills remain frozen from April.

It is up to councils whether they use that money to keep bills steady, though some have opted to put rates up.