To consider renewing South Lakeland District Council’s Council Tax Reduction Scheme for 2021/22.
The Finance and Resources Portfolio Holder highlighted the South Lakeland District Council was one of a limited number of Councils to offer up to 100% Council Tax relief and that around 10% of properties benefitted from the scheme. After considering the options for change, it was expected that the current scheme would continue unchanged for the financial year of 2021/22. This was with the exception of applying the annual upratings and other minor income and capital disregards, and treatment of persons from abroad aligned to other means tested benefit schemes.
The Portfolio Holder added that this was not something that the Council had to do, but was something the Council had chosen to do with continual cross party support for the scheme.
Members highlighted their support for the scheme and remained proud of the Council’s ongoing commitment to enable the most vulnerable residents to survive and flourish.
The Leader asked the meeting if the motion was agreed. There was no dissent.
RESOLVED – That Council be recommended that the current Local Council Tax reduction Scheme is the most appropriate scheme for this Council for the financial year commencing 1st April 2021 subject to the Operational Lead Case Management in consultation with the Finance and Resources Portfolio Holder being authorised to:-
(a) 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; and
(b) Make all necessary amendments to Council’s Council Tax Reduction Scheme to uprate the allowances and premiums in accordance with the Revised HB Circular regarding annual upratings due to be issued in January 2021 (not yet issued at the time of the report) by the Department of Works and Pensions.
(c) Publish the updated scheme in accordance with the Local Government Finance Act 2021.
Reasons for Decision
To assist in the delivery of the Council Plan – Delivering a fairer South Lakeland
– A South Lakeland for everyone. The outcome is to create a District where everyone has access to the same opportunities, life chances and potential to lead safe, healthy, happy and fulfilled lives.
Several Welfare Reform changes have already been implemented, including the
abolition of the Council Tax Benefit Scheme and introduction of its replacement, the
Local Council Tax Reduction Scheme. Universal Credit full service was also rolled
out in South Lakeland between September and December 2018.
The Council has provided a large amount of information about the ways the changes will affect individuals and worked closely with our social landlords and other agencies to try as far as possible to reduce the impact on vulnerable people. We will continue to monitor the impact of these changes.
Alternation Options Considered and Rejected
The Council is under no legal obligation to offer a Council Tax Reduction Scheme for Working Age residents. Therefore in theory it could reduce the amount of support offered to this group from 100% to any figure it chose including having a full charge irrespective of income. The vast majority of councils reduce the amount of Council Tax Reduction for Working Age claimants between 10% and 30% resulting in annual average charges of just over £200 per annum for those on the lowest income in this group. All Cumbrian Local Authorities continue to have a zero charge for this group. A number of authorities are reviewing their schemes to reduce the contributions from claimants as they have found these contributions difficult to collect and have seen increased levels of write-offs.
There are numerous ways in which the current Local Council Tax Reduction Scheme could be changed: These were fully examined as part of the Overview and Scrutiny review and were considered as part of the decision making process in approving the scheme for 2015/16. No further examination has taken place since this review apart from a brief indication of the likely income that could be generated if a minimum charge was to be introduced for Working Age Recipients of Council Tax Reduction. It is likely that a review of South Lakeland’s Council Tax Reduction Scheme will be undertaken in 2021, to assess the impacts on the scheme following the full rollout of Universal Credit in South Lakeland. It is likely this review will be undertaken as part of a wider Cumbria review, should there be appetite to do so. During 2020/21, there was no Cumbria wide appetite to do so.