Decision Maker: Strategy and Resources Committee, Council
Decision status: For Determination
Is Key decision?: Yes
Is subject to call in?: No
The Committee considered a report by the Head of Resources (circulated previously) regarding the Council Tax Reduction Scheme for 2021/22.
The Head of Resources highlighted the following:
· The Scheme was reviewed annually in advance of the new financial year.
· The previous Council Tax Benefit scheme was abolished and replaced with localised support scheme for Council Tax in 2013/14.
· The local support scheme was aligned to other Councils as part of the Devon wide scheme.
· The current Council Tax Reduction banded scheme for working age claimants was introduced in April 2020.
· Four changes were proposed to this scheme from 1 April 2021 to bring the scheme in line with the changes being made by Central Government in Housing Benefit and Universal Credit. It would also enable the Council to alter the scheme within the financial year should it be deemed necessary which would allow the Council to be flexible as to ensure that applicants were not disadvantaged following changes made by Government.
· The Government had introduced a number of changes into the prescribed scheme for pension age applicants and it was proposed that the same changes be made to align the working age scheme as outlined in paragraph 4.4 of the report.
· Full details of the four proposed changes were detailed in paragraph 4.5 of the report.
· The Council undertook a comprehensive consultation on the proposals during the period 2 November 2020 to 13 December 2020 and were detailed in Appendix D and E.
· The cost impact to the Council was around 10% share of the Council Tax bill, and therefore the overall scheme would cost the Council approximately £650,000.
In response to questions, the Head of Resources advised the following:
· The costs of the scheme as detailed in paragraph 5 of the report related only to the cost of the scheme itself and did not include administration costs. The Council receives an admin grant of approximately £100,000 from the Government towards administration costs, however this did not cover the whole cost for administering the scheme. The comments regarding changing the terminology and referring to customers as residents would be taken on board.
· The overall administrative costs for the processing of applications had been reduced since the localised scheme was introduced in 2013.
In response to questions, the Revenues and Benefits Manager advised the following:
· The length of time taken to administer and process an application depended upon the complexity. If all evidence was provided and the application was made by a single person then an application would take approximately 20 minutes to process. More complicated applications would take longer. The average length of time to process an application was currently 11 working days. This was higher than the national average due to an increase in workload.
(a) That Council adopts all four of the proposals, as detailed in 4.5 of the report and as in North Devon Council, Council Tax Reduction Scheme Policy S13A and Schedule 1a of the Local Government Finance Act 1992, Appendix A, from 1 April 2021.
(b) That the Equality Impact Assessment in relation to the scheme, as set out in Appendix B of the report be noted;
(c) That Council approve the Exceptional Hardship Policy in relation to the Council Tax Reduction Scheme, as set out in Appendix C.
Report author: David Good
Publication date: 12/01/2021
Date of decision: 04/01/2021
Decided at meeting: 04/01/2021 - Strategy and Resources Committee