We would like your views on proposed changes to our council tax reduction scheme from April 2018, changes that would see it mirror housing benefit and universal credit rules.
How do you think our Council Tax Support scheme should change?
Since the government abolished Council Tax Benefit in 2013, and asked local councils to introduce their own Council Tax Support Schemes, government funding for the scheme has declined each year. The scheme now costs us £4.8 million a year more than it did in 2013 (and the cost grows each year).
We are proud that our scheme – developed through consultation with Council Tax payers – protects 30,000 people every year, including pensioners, registered disabled people, carers, families subject to the benefit cap and war widows. While we continue to lobby government to reinstate the full cost of Council Tax Support, we also have to reduce the cost of our scheme so we can support those who most need it.
We need to save £55 million more over the next three years – part of £238 million of savings that have either been made or identified since 2010 as a result of an estimated 56 per cent cut to the our funding from central government – some of the deepest cuts in the country. Our recently agreed 2017-18 to 2019-20 Medium Term Financial Strategy approved significant savings across all areas of spending, including major efficiencies, changing the way that the council works and raising Council Tax.
It is not possible to identify further savings to ensure our Council Tax Support Scheme can continue as it is. Neither is it possible to use our financial reserves to help cope with the pressures. This would not be sustainable in delivering a budget as reserves, like your savings, can only be spent once. Using our reserves simply puts off the tough choices for another year when the financial situation is likely to be even worse and puts at risk our ability to meet any unforeseen emergency in future.
Proposed changes from 1 April 2018
We have rejected changes which would increase inequality or place extra burdens on the most vulnerable. Instead, we’ve identified the following changes which will have the least impact on working age people who are most in need of Council Tax Support and have similar rules to those for Housing Benefit and Universal Credit:
Add new non-dependant charges for adult children, relatives or friends to reflect the need for working age non-dependants to contribute to a household.
Liability reduction by changing the way we calculate Council Tax Support.
Increasing the amount of the Council Tax you will need to pay if you are not in a protected group.
Reduce Council Tax Support backdating to four weeks in line with Housing Benefit and other welfare benefits.
Reduce the capital cut-off to £6,000 so that residents with more than £6,000 savings will no longer be eligible for Council Tax Support.
It is important that you take a look at the full descriptions of these proposals and their possible impact in the documents below before you have your say.
We’ve also looked at how we can support people who find it hard to pay their Council Tax. We will still offer money advice and help improve people’s budgeting skills to help them manage their debt or avoid getting into debt.
Have your say
If we want to make changes to our Council Tax Support Scheme we must, by law, ask you about it. We particularly want to know what residents who currently receive Council Tax Support think of these proposals and have sent them the letter below. However anyone with an interest in the level of Council Tax Support we provide, can take part until midnight on Sunday 3 September 2017.
You can take part by filling in the online survey below.
What happens next?
We will consider what you tell us and produce a consultation report which we can send to you if you provide your email address with your comments. A final decision about Council Tax Support will be made before 31 December 2017 and our new scheme will be introduced on 1 April 2018.