Council tax reduction scheme (Council Tax benefit)

Council tax reduction scheme

On 1 April 2013 Council Tax Reduction Schemes (CTRS) replaced Council Tax Benefit and new ways of calculating the reduction, developed and administered by local authorities, were introduced.

Council tax reduction is intended to help people on a low income with the cost of council tax. It can be paid in addition to any discounts that you may also be eligible to claim. To be eligible to claim council tax reduction you must be liable to pay council tax in respect of the dwelling and be resident at the dwelling. View Walsall council's full council tax reduction scheme (PDF 1.08MB)

This is only a brief guide to council tax reduction. It does not cover every aspect of the scheme and it is not a full statement of the law. Independent advice can be obtained from advice agencies such as the Citizens Advice Bureau, 139-144 Lichfield Street, Walsall. Telephone 01922 700600.

Consultation of a new scheme for 2017/18

In April 2013, the Government abolished the national council tax benefit scheme, replacing it with new local tax support schemes which are designed by local authorities themselves. The council tax reduction scheme reduces the amount of council tax low income households have to pay to the council.

Since April 2013 the government has reduced the amount of funding available to support the council tax reduction schemes year on year. For the first two years Walsall Council fully funded the new scheme resulting in the same level of council tax support for low income households as under the old scheme. However due to government cuts Walsall Council had no option but reduce the award to working age claimants by 25% for the years 2015-16 and 2016-17.

Due to continuing significant financial challenges, like all local authorities in England, Walsall Council now needs to decide whether to amend the level of support we offer to low income households.

There are just over 114,000 households in the borough, of these approximately 18,300 households are of working age and could potentially be affected by changes to the council tax reduction scheme. In addition there are approximately 13,750 pensioners in the borough, who although receive a reduction, are protected and will not be directly affected by any changes to the scheme.

In response to Government cuts to Local Authority funding Walsall Council has seen a reduction of £90m since 2010. We now need to set a 4 year budget and Walsall Council must cut a further £86m over the next four years. Combined with pressures from Childrens Services and Adult Social Care, £40m of savings must be found in 2017/18 alone, with the remainder over the following 3 years.

If we continue to provide the same level of council tax support, as in the current scheme, extra money will have to be found by changing, reducing, or ceasing other important council services and / or by increasing fees and charges or increasing council tax.

Consultation (now closed)

Walsall Council is required to consult with local residents and other interested parties before making changes to the local council tax reduction scheme. Any changes made will be implemented in April 2017.

The options for a new council tax reduction scheme

The Council is considering the options set out below. None of the options will affect pensioners who are protected from any changes.

Option A– Retain the current council tax reduction level of 25%, meaning a maximum award of 75%

Option B – Reduce the level of council tax reduction by a further 5% (overall a 30% reduction). This will mean claimants will have to pay more council tax

Option C – Reduce the level of council tax reduction by a further 10% (overall a 35% reduction). This will mean claimants will have to pay more council tax

Option D – Reduce the level of council tax reduction by a further 15% (overall a 40% reduction). This will mean claimants will have to pay more council tax

Other Changes

In addition to a further overall % reduction certain other changes could also be made to the council tax reduction scheme which would mean some people would have to pay more. These proposed changes are

  • Remove income disregard for child benefit for 2nd and additional children. Currently all income from child benefit is ignored when calculating a person’s council tax reduction
  • Reduce the savings and other investments limit to £6,000. Currently a person with savings and other investments worth more than £16,000 do not qualify for council tax reduction
  • Limit award to band C levels, This would mean the reduction awarded to people living in band D to H would be based on a band C charge
  • Remove the reduction currently awarded under the second adult rebate scheme

Protection of Single Under 35 Year Old Claimants

In addition to any potential financial effect of changes to the council tax reduction the single under 35 claimants have been more severely affected by the wider welfare reforms carried out by central government than any other group. The authority is therefore looking into the possibility of protecting this group against any further changes to its reduction scheme.

Finances

Currently a total of £24.2m is paid in council tax reduction by Walsall Council, £11.9m to working age claimants and £12.3 to pensioners. Allowing for the Police and Crime Commissioner and Fire Authority portion and extra costs the extra income to Walsall Council for each option are:

Option AOption BOption COption D
Increase in incomeN/A£420,000£797,500£1,132,000
Increase if single under 35 claimants protectedN/A£290,000£655,000£945,000
Increase in net income if other changes also adopted£368,500£335,000£275,000£215,000

Assuming no council tax increases in 2017/18, the table below indicates the amount of extra council tax that could be payable by working age households currently entitled to Council Tax Reduction (CTR) for Option B to D. It is calculated based on the council tax levels for 2016/17. The effect of any other changes will vary from case to case so it is not possible to give an estimated average effect.

Estimated extra council tax to pay per week for option B, C and D

Property bandOption B -
Extra 5% cut in CTR
(Weekly)
Option C -
Extra 10% cut in CTR
(Weekly)
Option D -
Extra 15% cut in CTR
(Weekly)
A£1.07£2.13£3.20
B£1.24£2.49£3.73
C£1.42£2.84£4.26
D£1.60£3.20£4.80
E£1.95£3.91£5.86
F£2.31£4.62£6.93
G£2.67£5.33£8.00
H£3.20£6.40£9.60

The figures above do not include the 25% single person discount given where there is only one adult in a household (if applicable that will reduce the amount further).

Have your say

If you do not receive Council Tax Reduction the council tax you pay will not change (apart from the annual rise in council tax), however you may be indirectly affected by the level of cuts to other council services, which will vary depending on which option is decided upon.

Consultation closed on 18 November 2016.

Postal survey

The council has commissioned independent research agency M-E-L, based in Birmingham, to send questionnaires to 10,000 people across the borough. The questionnaire was sent to 5,000 people who receive council tax reduction and 5,000 who do not. Everyone who was sent a questionnaire was selected randomly from the Council Tax Register. MEL Research sent a reminder letter and questionnaire to those who had not responded by a certain date. Participation was voluntary.

Every person who receives council tax reduction has also been written to explaining the proposal and options and were invited to have thier say via our online survey (now closed). Paper copies were available from the First Stop Shop,or on request by telephone.

The deadline for responses was 18th November 2016.

The findings of the consultation will be reported to Cabinet in December 2016 for recommendation to the Full Council to make a decision at their meeting in January 2017.

Draft budget proposals for 2017/18

In late October Walsall Council will publish its draft budget proposals for the financial year 2017/18, outlining approximately £40m worth of savings across a wide range of services. Consultation on the council’s draft budget will then begin and continue into December. In preparing the draft budget every effort has been made to minimise the impact cuts may have on individuals, particular groups and communities, however the scale of the savings required mean that the impact of cuts on frontline services may be unavoidable.  To find out more on draft budget proposals and have your say visit; www.walsall.gov.uk/budgethaveyoursay

Contact us:

Benefit Services
Walsall Council
Civic Centre
Darwall Street
Walsall
WS1 1XU

Telephone 0300 555 2855 for enquiries, to make a claim / report a change
Telephone 01922 652396 for enquiries about housing benefit overpayments
TextBox 01922 654000
Email BenefitsService@walsall.gov.uk