Consideration was given to a report from the Director of Finance which sought approval for a proposed consultation process to be undertaken by the Council to seek comments on revising the 2019/20 Council Tax Reduction Scheme.
There was a requirement to have a Council Tax Reduction scheme to support residents who qualified for assistance in paying Council Tax. The Local Government Finance Act 2012 required that each year a Billing Authority must consider whether to revise its Council Tax Reduction (CTR) scheme or to replace it with another scheme. Any change to the 2019/20 scheme must be agreed by full Council in line with budget setting and no later than 10 March 2019. This required the Council to agree a revised 2018/19 scheme at the 27 February 2019 Council meeting
The Council’s CTR scheme had been largely un-amended since April 2015 when the Council introduced a scheme that:
· Limited CTR to a maximum of 85% of Council Tax for a Band A property
· Removed second adult rebate for those of working age
Since 2016, there had been a number of legislative changes to the Housing Benefit Regulations (which included both advantageous and disadvantageous changes for the claimant), and these had not been aligned to the CTR scheme. This increased both the income and administrative costs of the scheme for the Council and could create confusion for residents.
In April 2017, Universal Credit Full Service (UC) commenced its roll out in Oldham and wider understandings of the impact of this roll out over the past few months presented the Council with an opportunity to reconsider its scheme for 2019/20. This could take into account the particular challenges UC presented in relation to managing changes of circumstance for CTR claimants, the method of calculation for UC/CTR cases and the resulting impacts on Council Tax collection.
A full examination of all the changes that might be considered for the 2019/20 scheme would ensure that the impact on residents of proposed changes were fully developed and reviewed and ensure that the scheme continued to remain fit for purpose for all CTR claimants and for the Council.
The issues set out for consideration and upon which the recommendations were based were:
a) Maintaining the present level of support i.e. limiting the level of support at 85% of Council Tax for a Band A property as the maximum amount available.
b) Limiting the maximum level of support from 2019/20 to 82.5% of Council Tax for a Band A property
c) Aligning the Council Tax Reduction scheme to reflect some or all of the changes made to Housing Benefit since April 2016
d) Changing the method of assessment for Universal Credit Council Tax Reduction cases
e) Introducing a minimum income floor for self-employed Council Tax Reduction claimants
1) Maintaining the present level of support i.e. limiting the level of support at 85% of the Council Tax of a Band A property as the maximum amount available.
2) Limiting the maximum level of support from 2019/20 to 82.5%
3) Aligning the CTR scheme to reflect some or all of the changes made to HB
4) Changing the method of assessment for UC CTR cases
5) Introducing a minimum income floor for self- employed CTR claimants
RESOLVED that the consultation on the Council Tax Reduction Scheme for 2019/20 be agreed and views be sought on:
1. The continuation of limiting support to a maximum of 85% of Council Tax of a Band A Property.
2. The application of disregards for Bereavement Support Allowance and post graduate master’s degree loan and special support payments in the assessment of CTR
3. The introduction of support for UC/CTR claimants including earnings disregards, use of DWP information as an intention to claim and incorporation of housing costs in the UC maximum award.