Agenda item

Review of the Local Council Tax Reduction Scheme (LCTRS) for 2021-22 (Agenda item 8)

Report by Councillor Philip Cowen, Executive Member for Finance and Growth.

Minutes:

The Executive Member for Finance and Growth presented the report, thefirst of three papers that he would be reporting on, all of which were being provided against an unprecedented background that had not been experienced before.

 

This was the eighth year that Breckland Council had implemented this locally set Local Council Tax Reduction Scheme that had to be reviewed annually.  This latest iteration introduced a fluctuating earnings rule that would allow, if approved, a floating tolerance level to make it easier for customers to manage their finances month to month.

 

The current level of maximum benefit being 91.5% for working age claimants and a fully funded package for war pensioners, a key part of Breckland’s Armed Forces Covenant.

 

Whilst living through these unprecedented times and given the impact of the Pandemic, that was affecting all of society and the potential to have a greater impact on the most vulnerable, the fluctuating earnings rule had proved particularly beneficial to many in the Breckland community.

 

The report identified that Breckland Council had seen a 500% increase in workload as a result of COVID 19 and although this was now reducing to a more typical level, the impact of the pandemic had not disappeared and local flare ups were likely to lead to an increase in casework for the team once more.

 

There were two options for Members to consider as set out in section 2 of the report.  The recommendations in section 3 although unambiguous: should be retained and the scheme be reviewed again in the subsequent year.

 

Adrian Mills, Strategic Manager (Billing & Benefits) ARP, was in attendance to answer any questions.

 

Members were asked to support the recommendations.

 

Councillor Clarke welcomed the review and thanked the Executive Member for his report.  He asked however, if the Council would be looking at any changes to the categories of support due to the pandemic in any further reviews going forward.

 

The Executive Member for Finance & Growth expected an ‘open book’ review to examine the implications of what everyone had experienced this year and an all Member input into further reviews going forward would be welcomed.

 

The Executive Member for Community, Leisure & Culture was really pleased to note the introduction of fluctuated earnings within the scheme.  He felt that this was a small but significant strut in support for residents whose employment could vary from week to week in terms of income.

 

Options

 

1)     That the Local Council Tax Reduction Scheme for 2021-22 be reviewed as outlined within the report and that Cabinet agree to retain the existing scheme for the 2021-22 year.

 

2)     That the Local Council Tax Reduction Scheme for 2021-22 be reviewed as outlined within the report and Cabinet make other recommendations.

 

3)     Do nothing.

 

Reasons for recommendations

 

The changes made to the current scheme have worked well – introducing a tolerance rule for the treatment of Universal Credit awards has reduced the number of notifications customers receive to amend their Council Tax payments, whilst providing stability for customer repayments whilst reducing customer contact.

 

Given the economic impact of COVID-19 on household budgets and rising unemployment, we do not recommend increasing the contribution rate this year.

 

RESOLVEDthat:

 

1)           the Local Council Tax Reduction Scheme for 2021-22 as outlined within the report be reviewed; and

 

2)          the existing scheme for the 2021-22 year be retained.

Supporting documents: