This report reviews the Council’s Local Council Tax Support scheme in advance of the 2022/23 financial year and seeks comments from this Committee regarding potential changes to the scheme in readiness for public consultation.
The Head of Revenues and Benefits presented a report which reviewed the Council’s Local Council Tax Support Scheme in advance of the 2022/23 financial year and sought comments from the Finance, Economic Development and Corporate Services Overview and Scrutiny Committee regarding potential changes to the scheme in readiness for public consultation.
Based upon the current core elements of the existing scheme, a range of different scenarios had been modelled, along with an assumed increased charge of Council Tax equating to 3%. Caseload levels were a significant factor when considering changes to a scheme, with a variance in caseload impacting the cost of the scheme. The volatility of caseload was therefore a concern and the impact of any changes would not be known for some time. As a result, varying changes to caseload had also been included as part of the financial modelling, but these assumptions were caveated on events that were outside of the Council’s control or influence, such as the consequences of Covid-19 pandemic. The full outcome of this modelling work was set out in Appendix 1, together with different options, changes to core elements of the scheme and wider considerations outlined in the table at paragraph 1.4 of the report.
It was reported that the current Council Tax Support Scheme provided maximum support at 80% of a person’s liability. As a result, the Council Tax bill was raised for the residual amount and this was typically around £277.74 per annum, based on a Band B property. Any changes to the scheme would result in an increase or decrease to the residual amount and, therefore, consideration may be needed to the disproportionate impact this may have on the cost of collection.
The indicative timetable to approve any change to the new scheme was set out at paragraph 2.2 of the report, with a final decision required by Council on 27 January 2022 prior to implementation from 1 April 2022.
During discussion, Members raised the following points:
It was confirmed that the Secretary of State would notify the Council regarding any positive change which could impact customers, so that this could be reflected in the Council Tax Scheme. It was confirmed that an amendment would be made to the report to reflect this.
It was confirmed that if a reduction in universal credit was introduced, there would be a subsequent increase in council tax support. At present, no decision had been made regarding this. It was confirmed that some wording would be added to report to advise of this volatility.
It was confirmed that consultation would take place between the Council, Lincolnshire County Council and the Police and Crime Commissioner should there be any formal proposed changes. It was advised that the Scheme currently sat within the remit of the Council and no conversations regarding reimbursement had taken place.
It was confirmed that an option to do this was outlined in Appendix A of the report. However, if the award was to be increased it would need to be increased for all customers. To amend this system, an equality impact assessment would need to be undertaken.
It was noted that South Kesteven District Council was the only Council across Lincolnshire not to have any other adjustments alongside the 80% maximum reward. It was confirmed that this reflected the modelling of a maximum reward scheme and that it was easy for customers to understand.
It was advised that a Top Up scheme was available as part of wider council tax support. This scheme ensured funds could be available for customers experiencing a shortfall between their council tax award and their remaining liability for council tax.
It was advised that as the majority of customers were either in Band A or B properties, it was unlikely that any savings could be made through the introduction of a banding cap.
a) That work is undertaken around an equality impact assessment to consider whether additional support is available for vulnerable residents.
b) To consider reviewing the Top Up Scheme, and that these findings be presented as a report to the Committee in the Autumn.
That the Committee supports the recommendation outlined in the report that the current Council Tax Support Scheme be maintained for 2022/23.