Agenda item

Local Council Tax Support (Agenda item 8)

Report of William Smith, Executive Member for Internal Services.

Minutes:

The Executive Member for Internal Services gave a quick introduction to the report that sought agreement to recommend to Council a new Local Council Tax Support Scheme.  Breckland, along with all billing authorities had been required to consult on a new scheme; however, the scheme being proposed was slightly different to what had been consulted on.  The improvements that had been made were highlighted (see third paragraph of section 5.6 of the report). The Secretary of State had offered a transitional grant, if accepted, it could mean in the region of £17,800 for Breckland Council.  This would be a one-off arrangement and no-one knew if this would be offered again the following year.  If this was the case and no offer came forward this scheme might have to be revisited.

 

Members’ attention was drawn to the highly detailed document attached to the report at Appendix A.

 

The Assistant Director of Commissioning highlighted the key elements of the report and emphasised the fact that Breckland Council needed to have a support scheme in place by 31 January 2013; if not, the Government would impose a scheme itself.  To have a draft scheme that would pay for itself would have led to a reduced level of support across all working age claims by approximately 25%.  It would have been possible for the Council to meet the shortfall in funding from the Council’s budget; however, this would have created a pressure on the other major precepting authorities’ budgets and would also be inconsistent with the approach agreed across Norfolk.

 

The Proforma B highlighted the combined cost of the new scheme and technical changes, the Government Grant and the Transitional Grant – the estimated cost to Breckland would be in the region of an additional £42,627.  Members were informed; however, that Norfolk County Council had agreed to provide a one off grant for 2013-14 which ultimately meant that there would be no additional cost to this Council for this particular year.

 

The recommendations were highlighted.  The Executive Member for Internal Services stated that the scheme Breckland Council was proposing was broadly as other authorities in Norfolk the only difference being was the Class C properties (100% discount for the first three months then 0% discount for the next three).

 

The Executive Member for Assets & Strategic Development was pleased to hear that this scheme worked out to be cost neutral in the first year.  Members were assured that this was subject to the conditional offers based on this report.

 

Options

Council Tax Support

 

1)           Do nothing.  If the Council did not adopt a LCTS scheme based on agreed local criteria then the Government’s “default scheme” would be implemented.

 

2)           To agree and recommend to Council that the draft Local Council Tax Support scheme – which formed the basis of consultation – be finalised and adopted in Breckland.

 

3)           To apply for a Transitional Grant and amend the draft Local Council Tax Support scheme to reflect the grant scheme criteria.

 

Technical Changes

 

1)           Do nothing.  If the Council did not make technical changes to Council Tax exemptions then the funding shortfall would have to met by the Local Council Tax Support scheme with less support for working age claimants.

2)           To agree and recommend to Council that technical changes be made to the collection of Council Tax as described above and in line with the other billing authorities in Norfolk and in agreement with Norfolk County Council.

 

Reasons

 

It was recommended that Cabinet agreed the new Local Council Tax Support Scheme and recommended it to Council for adoption.

 

It was further recommended that Breckland Council applied for a Transitional Grant and amended the draft Local Council Tax Support scheme to reflect the grant scheme criteria.

 

The new criteria were largely consistent with those consulted upon; the only difference being 8.5% limit on increased council tax liability.  In applying for the grant, Breckland Council would minimise the impact on benefit recipients, for at least one year, of reductions in council tax support.

 

There were a number of different criteria which could be used to deliver a local scheme. Other billing authorities were expected to agree some different arrangements reflecting their own local circumstances.  The proposals put forward here largely reflected the current policies for the award of council tax benefit but reflected the reduced level of funding available by capping the maximum award [in line with the Transitional Grant Criteria].

 

To deliver the required saving from changes to the Council Tax scheme alone, without the Transitional Grant and with no income from technical changes to Council Tax exemptions, would lead to a reduced level of support across all working age claims by approximately 25%.

 

It would be possible for the Council to meet the shortfall in funding from the Council’s budget. However, this would also create a pressure on the other major precepting authorities’ budgets and was inconsistent with the approach agreed across Norfolk.

 

RECOMMEND to Council that:

 

1)     the new Council Tax Support Scheme be approved;

 

2)     an application be made for the Transitional Grant and the draft Local Council Tax Support scheme be amended to reflect the grant scheme criteria; and

 

3)     technical changes be made in regard to the collection of Council Tax.

Supporting documents: