The Executive Member for Financial Sustainability submitted a report inviting the Overview and Scrutiny Committee to consider the latest available information around the current local Council Tax Support (CTS) scheme at East Herts and whether any changes to the scheme should be considered for 2023/24.
The Executive Member for Financial Sustainability reminded Members of the background to the scheme and advised that the scheme required payments of 8.5% of council tax liability instead of the 100% awarded under the previous council tax benefit schemes. He said that the proposal was to leave the scheme unchanged and one reason for this was that any changes seemed inappropriate with the way things were in respect of people’s circumstances. Members were also reminded that any changes would require consultation.
Councillor Kemp said that it was very good to see that the Council had a longstanding scheme and he understood that a quarter of residents were benefiting from it. He commented that the proportion of people in the scheme paying council tax was lower than was the case for general residents.
Councillor Kemp said that a quarter of residents were paying 8.5% of the normal Council Tax. He asked what income was generated from the 8.5% over the whole base of taxpayers and how did this correlate against the costs in chasing those payers who did not pay their council tax.
Councillor Williamson said that of the 65,450 council tax paying properties in the District, 5,210 were in receipt of council tax support which equated to just under 8%. He said that of the 5,210 around 2,300 were classified in the elderly category and were eligible to receive up to 100% support meaning that for some there was nothing to collect.
Councillor Williamson said that the costs of chasing nonpayers or those with arrears was not separately identified. He said that he would see if more information could be supplied to answer the question outside of the meeting.
Councillor Kemp asked for the figure for the proportion who were paying the 8.5%. The Head of the Revenues and Benefits Shared Service said that the council tax liability for working age residents in receipt of council tax support was £4.4m, therefore 8.5% would be £374k at September 2022 and this figure changed by the hour.
The Chairman asked the following pre submitted question on behalf of Councillor Brady. Can the Council Tax level in the upper bands be increased in line with the tax relief provided by the Government? The Executive Member for Financial Sustainability said that this was not possible as the weighting and ratios of the various council tax bands was laid down by legislation and statute.
Councillor Wilson asked if Officers had any knowledge of what happened in terms of living standards or the residential status of residents who were on universal credit where it had been agreed that a debt was to be paid by taking money out of universal credit.
The Head of the Revenues and Benefits Shared Service said that Officers worked very closely with any resident who was in receipt of council tax support and had contacted Officers to alleviate or ameliorate their debt situation. Members were advised that the amount that could be recovered was capped to avoid causing excessive hardship and Officers worked with customers to establish a manageable and reasonable repayment schedule to alleviate any extra pressures.
The Head of the Revenues and Benefits Shared Service said there was a small hardship fund and the number of applicants for this was increasing. Councillor Goldspink said that overall, the report had struck the right balance. Councillor Symonds expressed her thanks to Officers for doing a fantastic job in very difficult circumstances.
Councillor Devonshire proposed and Councillor Snowdon seconded, a motion that Overview and Scrutiny Committee consider that the current Council Tax Reduction Scheme should continue for 2023/24. After being put to the meeting and a vote taken, the motion was declared CARRIED.
RESOLVED – that Overview and Scrutiny Committee agree that the current Council Tax Reduction Scheme should continue for 2023/24.