The Interim Section 151 Officer presented the Final Council Tax Support Scheme for the Committee’s consideration.
Members were informed that the draft Council Tax Support Scheme had been subject to consultation in October 2022. There had been a total of 94 responses received during the consultation, of which 87 per cent had been in favour of the proposed changes overall to the Council Tax Support Scheme. These changes would result in an additional cost of £141,000, although this figure would be divided between the precepting authorities and the actual cost to Redditch Borough Council would be closer to £13,000.
All of the precepting authorities had been consulted on the proposed changes to the scheme. In the response received from Worcestershire County Council, it had been clarified that that Council was not particularly in favour of the proposed changes. Officers had responded by highlighting that, if no changes were made, it was likely that the level of Council Tax that could not be collected would increase resulting in a loss of income anyway. The Committee was asked to note that whilst all of the Councils in north Worcestershire were proposing changes to their Council Tax Support Schemes, which would increase support available to their most vulnerable residents, no changes had been proposed to the Council Tax Support Schemes in place for the District Councils in the south of the county. However, no Councils in the county were proposing to reduce the Council Tax support they provided to eligible residents.
Following the presentation of the report, Members discussed the process that had been followed in respect of the consultation and questions were raised about how the Council ensured that people did not respond multiple times, thereby skewing the figures. Officers clarified that an external company undertook this consultation on behalf of the Council as well as many other authorities in the country and were therefore experienced at managing consultation processes. The Committee was informed that further information would be requested about how the company managed this risk.
1) the Council is asked to approve the introduction of a revised and more supportive Council Tax Reduction scheme for working age applicants with effect from 1st April 2023 in line with 1.2 below;
and RESOLVED to note that
2) the scheme is designed to assist the lowest income households and to allow the Council to operate the scheme more flexibly by:
(a) increasing the maximum level of support for working age applicants in certain income bands and to increase the income levels within the 'income - grid' scheme. Both of these changes are designed to provide more support to low income households;
(b) disregarding certain childcare charges where an applicant (and their partner if they have one) is working more than 16 hours per week;
(c) disregarding certain payments paid to taxpayers under special schemes (Local Welfare Provision); and
(d) where the Government makes emergency increases to national welfare benefits to assist in a crisis, the scheme will give the Council the discretion to disregard those increases if they would have a negative effect of Council Tax Reduction; and
3) all other parts of the existing scheme will remain unchanged.