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Agenda item

Local Council Tax Reduction Scheme 2019/20 - Corporate Director of Resources

Minutes:

The Council considered a report of the Corporate Director of Resources which sought approval for the continuation of the Local Council Tax Reduction Scheme (LCTRS) for a further year into 2019/20 (for copy see file of Minutes).

 

In Moving the report, Councillor Napier, Deputy Leader and Cabinet Portfolio Holder for Finance, informed the Council that despite many years of ongoing austerity the Council had been able to protect the most vulnerable people it served.

 

The LCTRS was unchanged and ensured that the Council continued to be one of the few councils to continue to offer the same level of benefit as was the case under the old council tax benefit rules.  This was despite Government cutting funding for the scheme every year since 2011, when it was cut by 10% before being handed to local government, which was a £4.6m hit to the Council.

 

These continued to be unprecedented times, with a government paralysed by Brexit with significant risk and uncertainty surrounding future economic prospects and future local government funding.

 

The decade of imposed austerity continued to hit the Council, but also hit the most vulnerable residents hard.  Local people who had seen cuts to their benefits and allowances by a government that did not understand.  A government that continued to roll out the Universal Credit scheme despite the bank of evidence which showed how the scheme was not working for vulnerable people, putting people who need the most in an even more vulnerable position.

 

Cabinet was satisfied that the Council could continue to protect the 34,000 low income households across the County to help them make ends meet by awarding them up to 100% council tax support for 2019/20.  Durham was one of only two councils in the region, and one of a dwindling number of councils across the country which continued to grant up to 100% support for working age council tax payers in receipt of low income.  Evidence showed that in areas where the LCTRS was not maintained council tax collection rates decreased and the issuing of summons increased.  Bailiffs then became involved and this led to the most vulnerable spiralling into debt.

 

As more local council tax support claimants were in receipt of Universal Credit, where the level of their income could change frequently meaning there could be many changes to their entitlement, changes to the LCTRS may need to be made and officers had been asked to consider this.

 

In Seconding approval of the Scheme Councillor J Brown, Portfolio Holder for Social Inclusion informed the Council that she was proud that the County Council, which had worked hard to protect the Scheme, was one of a few Councils to continue to support such a Scheme.  There was evidence that in areas which had drawn back from such level of support families were pushed further into the poverty trap.

 

 

Resolved:

(a)     That the current Local Council Tax Reduction Scheme be continued into 2019/20, which would retain the same level of support to all working age council tax payers on low incomes;

(b)     That the extension to the Scheme be initially for a further year only and be kept under continuous review with a further decision on the Scheme to apply in 2020/21 to be considered by Cabinet in spring/summer 2019 and Full Council by 11 March 2020.

 

Supporting documents:

 

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