Agenda item

Review of the Council Tax Reduction Scheme

To consider whether the current Local Council Tax Reduction Scheme is the most appropriate for this Council for the financial year commencing 1 April 2020.

Minutes:

Note – Linda Fisher, Legal Governance and Democracy Lead Specialist (Monitoring Officer) declared a personal interest in this item of business by virtue of the fact that she was a Trustee of the War Widows Association.  She remained in the Chamber during the discussion and voting on the item, although with no voting rights as an officer of the Council.

 

On 1 April 2013, the national Council Tax Benefit Scheme had been abolished and replaced with a locally-determined scheme known as the Local Council Tax Reduction Scheme.  South Lakeland District Council had introduced a scheme that mirrored the previous national scheme, which meant that nobody was worse off under the Local Scheme and that the most vulnerable people in the District were protected from any reductions in support.

 

Councillor Andrew Jarvis, Finance and Resources Portfolio Holder, presented a detailed report, informing Members that the Local Government Finance Act 2012 (as amended) required Local Authorities to approve their Council Tax Reduction Scheme on an Annual Basis by the 11 March for the following financial year.

 

After considering options for change, including the additional income, costs and risks associated with any changes, it was expected that the current Scheme would continue unchanged for the financial year 2020/21.  This was with the exception of applying the annual upratings and other minor income and capital disregards.

 

Attention was drawn to the Council Tax Reduction Scheme (Prescribed Requirements) (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2020 which had come into force on 11 February 2020 and to minor amendments contained therein.  Equalities impacts had been outlined within the report. 

 

The report had been considered and recommended to Council for approval by Cabinet at its meeting on 5 February 2020.

 

Councillor Jarvis informed Members that it was expected that a review of South Lakeland’s Council Tax Reduction Scheme was due to be undertaken in the forthcoming year to assess the impacts on the Scheme of the roll-out of Universal Credit.  He pointed out that the overall cost of the scheme for the South Lakeland area was approximately £5m, split between this Council, Cumbria County Council and the Police and Crime Commissioner, stressing the fact that this was not something that the Council had to do, but chose to.  He expressed pride with regard to cross party support of this measure to help protect the poorest and most vulnerable residents in the District.

 

Councillor Jarvis moved the recommendations contained within the report, adding that the Revised HB Circular referred to at recommendation (1)(b) had been issued on 5 January 2020.  He was seconded by Councillor Suzie Pye, Health, Wellbeing and Financial Resilience Portfolio Holder, who was also proud to be associated with an authority which went beyond its statutory obligation when it came to helping the most vulnerable in society, alleviating poverty and tackling inequality in South Lakeland.  The Council remained one of only 36 authorities to offer a fully-funded Council Tax Reduction scheme for working age claimants – this was not cheap, however, Councillor Pye felt it to be value for money, and allowed people to manage, to then flourish, and even to thrive.

 

Members echoed what had been said and thanked the Finance Team for putting together a balanced budget to enable the Council to offer this Local Council Tax Reduction Scheme.

 

It was, subsequently, unanimously

 

RESOLVED – That, due consideration having been given to the Equality Impact Assessment at Appendix 1 to the report, the current Local Council Tax Reduction Scheme be approved as the most appropriate scheme for this Council for the financial year commencing 1 April 2020, subject to the Finance Lead Specialist (Section 151 Officer), in consultation with the Finance and Resources Portfolio Holder, being authorised to:-

 

(1)        make all necessary updates to this Council’s Council Tax Reduction Scheme to comply with any statutory requirements that may be issued by Central Government;

 

(2)        make all necessary amendments to the Council’s Council Tax Reduction Scheme to uprate the allowances and premiums in accordance with Revised HB Circular issued on 15 January 2020 by the Department of Work and Pensions; and

 

(3)        publish the updated scheme in accordance with the Local Government Finance Act 2012.

Supporting documents: