Test Valley Borough Council is asking residents for their views on proposed changes to its Council Tax Reduction scheme for 2019/20.
Following the rollout of Universal Credit, which has brought together a number of different benefits including Job Seeker’s Allowance and Housing Benefit, the authority is reviewing how its Council Tax Reduction scheme works. This is because the continued roll out of Universal Credit with its rolling reassessment of entitlement means that many Council Tax Reduction applicants receive multiple Council Tax demands each year and the cost of financing the current scheme is becoming unsustainable. Any changes will affect working age households that currently receive Council Tax Reduction or apply for it in future. Anyone of pensionable age will not be affected.
The council has also committed to protecting its most vulnerable residents from any changes and those receiving the ‘support’ component of Employment Support Allowance (ESA) or the ‘limited capability for work’ element of Universal Credit will not be affected by any cap implemented as a result of changes to the scheme.
The options the council is consulting on are:
- to apply a cap on financial support so that Council Tax payers would pay a minimum of 10, 15 or 20 per cent of their Council Tax
- to set a minimum tolerance level sothat unless a change in the applicant’s circumstance would mean an increase or decrease in support of £30 per week, no change would be made at that time
- to increase the minimum weekly Council Tax Reduction award from 50p to £1.
Finance portfolio holder, Councillor Peter Giddings, said: “The impact of Universal Credit has made the current scheme incredibly confusing for applicants. It has also caused a significant increase in the administration that has to be undertaken by the council. We are now in a position where we need to consult with residents on the options available to us to help determine a way forward.
“However, it is absolutely vital that we continue to protect our most vulnerable residents from any proposed changes to the scheme, which is why those in receipt in certain elements of ESA or Universal Credit will not be affected by a cap.
The council will be sending a copy of the consultation to all those currently in receipt of Council Tax support and likely to be affected by the proposed changes. The consultation is also available online at www.testvalley.gov.uk/consultations/council-tax-support-consultation. The council will also invite Council Tax payers and local partners, groups and organisations to submit a response.
Following the consultation councillors will make a decision on what changes should be implemented. Any changes will come into effect from 1 April 2019.