We are asking for your views about proposed changes to the Council Tax Support Scheme for Peterborough for the 2016/2017 financial year.
In April 2013, the government changed the way in which assistance is provided to council taxpayers on low incomes. This change meant councils had to develop a local scheme and had less funding to do so. The change meant that everyone, except low-income pensioners, had to pay something towards their council tax bills from April 2013.
We introduced our Council Tax Support Scheme in April 2013, whereby council tax benefit was reduced by 30 per cent for working age claimants. This reduction has remained the same since its introduction.
We now need to approve our Council Tax Support Scheme for the financial year 2016/17, and have launched a consultation phase.
We are considering making changes to the scheme and want to hear your views on the proposals.
Council tax support scheme 2016/17 proposals
1) The council is proposing keeping the current scheme reduction of 30% for all eligible working age claimants.
2) Earlier this year, the government announced that it was proposing changes to Housing Benefit rules. We propose to align the Council tax support scheme with the government changes, namely to:
- Limit backdating of council tax support to one month
- Removes family premiums from all new claimants, or existing claimants who would otherwise have had a new entitlement to the premium, with effect from 1 May 2016
By aligning the Council Tax Support Scheme to Housing Benefit rules it will make it less complicated for claimants.
3) Universal Credit is being rolled out nationally which replaces a number of benefits into a single benefit. This is being phased in to the Peterborough area and therefore the local scheme will equally apply these changes to Universal Credit working age claimants.
4) As part of the council acting responsibly in collecting outstanding council tax, there may be instances where people find it difficult to pay.
In view of this, we propose to introduce a council tax discretionary hardship policy with effect from 1 April 2016. Primarily the scheme would:
- Exist for those experiencing significant financial hardship
- Be for those in receipt of council tax support
- Be discretionary and would be subject to demonstrating that effort has been made to control finances and sought advice
- Apply from the point of introduction, and not for arrears
It is suggested that any such scheme should link into the council’s Peterborough Community Assistance Scheme (PCAS) arrangements.