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Have your say on changes to Local Council Tax Support in 2016/17

Consultation

The consultation period for the proposed changes to the scheme for the 2016/17 financial year runs from 15 September 2015 until the closing date of Monday 26 October 2015..

Your feedback will help us decide the final scheme. Once consultation feedback has been analysed, the results will be presented to Cabinet on 8 December 2015, and then to Council on 15 December 2015 with a view to introducing any changes from April 2016.

To take part in the consultation please click here. If you have been sent a consultation form in the post, you will need to enter the reference number printed at the top. Taking part will not affect any Council Tax Support you are receiving at the moment, but allows you to have your say on what may happen in the future.

What is the current scheme?

Every household has to pay Council Tax, but some people can apply for Council Tax Support – a means-tested reduction to the bill.

Since 2013, some working age residents have been required to pay a percentage of their Council Tax bill. This means those who are not in a group that is protected under the scheme (see below) have to pay at least the minimum amount of 14% of their Council Tax bill.  

The maximum level of Council Tax Support is capped at Band C – working age claimants living in properties in Band D and above will have their Council Tax Support calculated as if they are living in a Band C property.

Why is the scheme changing?

The Government ended Council Tax Benefit on 1 April 2013 and all councils, including Poole, developed their own Council Tax Support schemes to replace it.

By February 2016 we need to identify £5.8 million of further savings in order to balance the budget for 2016/17. At the same time, costs and demand for many of our services are rising. Each year the Government gives the Council less money towards Council Tax Support. For the 2016/17 financial year, the Council will find it difficult to keep the current scheme without affecting funds needed for other services, and needs to develop a Scheme that is affordable and fair, not only for those who receive support, but also for residents that depend on wider services.

In addition, the Government has also announced two changes to the national Housing Benefit Scheme from April 2016. We are proposing to align the Council Tax Support Scheme with the changes announced by the Government for the national Housing Benefit scheme and we would like your views on this.

What will not change?

Pensioners can claim Council Tax Support against 100% of their bill, as the Government says that we must fully protect pensioners. Any changes will not affect the 25% Single Person Discount, where there is only one adult in the household.

The most vulnerable people will continue to be protected from the first of the proposed changes.

Who is considered to be most vulnerable?

Our proposed scheme will continue to protect some groups of people from the first of the proposed changes.

The protected groups, supported by consultation in 2012, are where the working age claimant or partner is in receipt of any of the following:

  • War disablement pension, war widows pension or war widows disablement pension
  • Disability premium, enhanced disability premium or severe disability premium
  • Disabled child premium
  • Carer premium
  • Support component within their employment and support allowance

Proposed changes to the 2016/17 Council Tax Support Scheme

There are three proposed changes:

  1. Increasing the minimum contribution from 14% to between 15% and 20% for working age residents not in a protected group. This would mean everyone of working age who is not in a protected group would pay more towards their Council Tax. Anyone in a protected group would continue to be protected from this proposal

  2. Withdrawing the Family Premium for new working age claims from April 2016. This would reduce the Applicable Amount (the basic living needs of the household) by £17.45 per week (based on current Family Premium) and would affect all working age families making a new claim for Council Tax Support from 1 April 2016, including protected groups. This change would also apply to their Housing Benefit Applicable Amount

  3. Backdating would be limited to a maximum of 4 weeks for working age claims from April 2016. ‘Backdating’ is where a request is made in writing to the Benefits Service, and the person shows that they had continuous good cause for their failure to make a claim at the relevant time. This would mean that backdating would be limited to up to a maximum of 4 weeks. This would affect all working age families from 1 April 2016, including protected groups, and mirrors the national change in the Housing Benefit rule being introduced in April 2016

Please note that at this time we cannot tell you how much your own Council Tax Support will be in 2016/17. This is because we cannot decide the final scheme and calculate how it will change for individuals until we know the results of the consultation and Full Council has made its decision.

If you want to look at the proposed scheme in detail, please see the document on the right hand side of this page.