Consideration was given to a report of the Director of Finance which sought approval for a number of amended Local Taxation and Benefits Discretionary Policies, and the introduction of an Empty Property Premium Policy for 2023/34.
The report provided the full detail of proposed updates to the discretionary policies used to support Local Taxation and Benefits administration i.e., Council Tax, Business Rates, Housing Benefits and Council Tax Reduction administration.
The policies and proposed changes were:
• The Discretionary Council Tax Discount Policy
- To introduce the option to award a discretionary discount under the Exceptional Hardship Payment (EHP) scheme to Council Tax arrears accrued outside of the current financial year. The EHP scheme is the means in which the Council consider requests for discretionary discounts from residents in Exceptional financial hardship under Section 13A (1)(c) of the Local Government Finance Act.
The Discretionary Council Tax Discounts Policy provided guidance in regard to requests for the removal of empty property premiums. The proposed update would remove this guidance so that a new expanded policy can be introduced solely for this purpose as outlined in the Empty Property Premium Policy. The proposed Discretionary Discount Policy was presented at Appendix 1 to the report.
• The Discretionary Rate Relief Policy
- Central Government had introduced additional discounts and reliefs for the
2023/24 financial year. They had been incorporated into the proposed
Discretionary Rate Relief Policy 2023/24 which was presented at Appendix 2 to the report.
• The Empty Property Premium Policy
- For 2023/24 there was the introduction of a policy covering the application of the Empty property Premium in relation to Council Tax.
The Council currently applied a 100% empty property premium for property
unoccupied and unfurnished for over 2 years. From April 2023, further
premiums would be applied for properties unoccupied and unfurnished for over 5 years. This would mean empty property premiums will be applied as set out below.
• 100% premium on properties unoccupied and unfurnished for at least 2
• 200% premium on properties unoccupied and unfurnished for at least 5
• 300% premium on properties unoccupied and unfurnished for at least 10
To help provide guidance to affected property owners and to Council Officers
administering the premium it was proposed that a specific policy detailing the
circumstances in which the Council would consider the removal of the premium was appropriate. This was included at Appendix 5 of the report.
• Local Welfare Provision and Discretionary Housing Payments
- The Local Welfare Provision (LWP) and Discretionary Housing Payments
(DHP) policies had also been subject to an annual review. No proposals for
changing the policies had been identified for 2023/24.
Option 1 – Do Nothing
Option 2 - Approve the Local Taxation and Benefits Discretionary Policies
RESOLVED – That:
1. The proposed amendments to the existing Local Taxation and Benefits Discretionary Policies for 2023/24 together with and the introduction of the Empty Property Premium Policy for the 2023/24 financial year be approved.
2. The Discretionary Policies presented as appendices 1-5 of the report be adopted for 2023/24.