Changes to council tax support - give us your views

We are asking residents for their views on council tax support.

Background

Council tax support is provided to around 6,000 households in Cheltenham at an annual cost of just under £5.7 million. This includes working and pension age claimants. Approximately 60 per cent of these households are of working age. The cost of the council tax support scheme is met by this council and the 'precepting' authorities who are the county council and the police. The share of the cost is the same as the share of the council tax.

Prior to April 2013, council tax payers on a low income could apply for council tax benefit to help pay their council tax. Under this national scheme and in line with the regulations, council tax payers could receive benefit of up to 100 per cent of their council tax liability. The council then received full funding from the government for all council tax benefit paid to residents.

From April 2013, councils became responsible for designing their own local council tax support (CTS) scheme for working age people only. The government also reduced the funding given to councils to pay for the scheme. Cheltenham Borough Council introduced its local council tax support scheme in April 2013 which more or less replicated the council tax benefit scheme. Council tax support for pensioners was not localised and continues to be provided for by a national scheme.

Since 2013-14 the funding received from central government to support the local working age scheme has continued to reduce in line with the other central funding cuts and is expected to continue to reduce over the coming years.

From 1 April 2019, Cheltenham Borough Council introduced a revised local council tax support scheme which increased the contribution that some people receiving help must make towards their council tax bills. However, we are now in the position of considering further changes to the local council tax support scheme with effect from 1 April 2020. We want to hear your views regarding the changes that we could make to the local scheme introduced from 1 April 2019.

What is local council tax support?

Council tax support is a council tax discount and if awarded it will reduce a person’s council tax payments. Any person who is liable for council tax can apply. The level of discount awarded is currently based on the income and capital the claimant and partner has, whether they have dependent children or other adults living in the household, referred to as non-dependants. Other factors such as certain expenses to assist with childcare payments, disabilities and whether a person falls into a group considered to need more support is also taken into consideration .

All, some, or none of these factors can be taken into consideration when devising a council tax support scheme.

Why is a change to the council tax support scheme being considered?

Each year we have to decide whether to make changes to the administration of our council tax support scheme for working age applicants in the borough. This year we're consulting on minor changes that could be made to the scheme from 1 April 2020 that will ensure that our most vulnerable residents continue to receive the vital support they need.

Who will be affected by any changes?

It is important to note that any proposed changes to the council tax support scheme will not affect pensioners. People of pension age are protected and their council tax support will continue to be awarded on the basis of the scheme prescribed by central government.

The proposed changes will apply from 1 April 2020 to working age people only who receive council tax support or apply in the future for help to have their council tax discounted. There will be no exceptions and any changes to the scheme will apply to all working age people from 1 April 2020.

Who are we consulting?

The consultation in respect of changes to the council tax support scheme for 2020-21 is open to everyone who lives in Cheltenham, regardless of whether they currently claim benefits and/or council tax support, work or study in the town and want to have their views heard. We are keen to hear the views of a cross section of Cheltenham residents.

When and how are we consulting?

The consultation will run for a period of six weeks, starting Monday 5 August and ending on Friday 13 September 2019.

We encourage people to complete our online survey as this will capture answers to the key questions we are asking.

However if you are unable to complete the online survey and would like to give your comments to us you can:

Revenues and Benefits Service, Cheltenham Borough Council, Municipal Offices, Promenade, Cheltenham, GL50 9SA

What happens after the consultation period has ended?

The information collected from this consultation will be used by us to help inform any changes to the council tax support scheme from 1 April 2020.

The results from the consultation will be published later this year on our website.

Work will take place to update the council tax support scheme which will be considered at a full council meeting in December 2019. The scheme will then be reflected as a discount on council tax bills for 2020-21.