9 December 2023

Council consulting on potential changes to Council Tax Reduction Scheme

Wiltshire Council is consulting on possible changes to its local Council Tax Reduction Scheme for working-aged people.

They are ensuring it continues to benefit those who need it and evolves in line with the Government’s developing plans on Universal Credit.

A consultation is now underway to get feedback on the council’s proposed changes and runs until 27 November 2023. People can complete an electronic survey online at https://www.wiltshire.gov.uk/benefits-council-tax-reduction, and paper copies will be available in all of Wiltshire’s libraries and main hubs.

Wiltshire Council has operated two council tax reduction schemes for the last decade. For the first time in four years, the council is developing plans to update the scheme that specifically supports working-age people only.

The other scheme, which supports people of pensionable age, is a national one, and no changes are planned for that.

The Council Tax Reduction (CTR) Scheme started in April 2013 and helps people on a low income to pay their council tax. Depending on individual circumstances, it could help to cover up to 100% of people’s council tax costs.

The scheme replaced the council tax benefit scheme and is different because it calculates a reduction to the council tax bill instead of awarding a benefit payment to the relevant council tax account.

Potential changes to the scheme should result in it being more generous to people in hardship who are eligible to receive support, and that, in turn, should help reduce the overall council tax debt written off each year due to those unable to pay.

This would impact the police and fire services as major preceptors; it will also affect towns and parishes, particularly the bigger towns and parishes, including Salisbury City Council, which all set precepts, and so feedback will be sought from them during the consultation process.

Changes are also needed because the administration of the council’s CTR Scheme has been made more complex due to the way in which Universal Credit payments fluctuate in response to any changes in income.

These variations are reported to the council, which can delay support for people who need it quickly.

The council currently assess CTR for customers in receipt of Universal Credit differently to other working-age customers. In the interest of fairness, the council is proposing to change how it deals with Universal Credit customers and bring them more in line with other working-age customers.

Cllr Nick Botterill, Cabinet Member for Finance, said: “The introduction of the Universal Credit scheme has brought with it some complicated processes that have had an impact on those who claim council tax reduction and how we administrate the benefit.

“Therefore, we think now is a good time to look at making some changes that will not only likely make it a more generous scheme for those who need it, but also give them more control and make it less complicated for all involved. The scheme is in place to provide vital support and we don’t want any barriers to prevent that from happening.

“We ask that all those affected provide us with their feedback on our proposals so we can take that into consideration before making any final decisions.”

The consultation results will be brought back to Cabinet by the end of the calendar year, with any changes introduced in the 2024/25 financial year.

More information can be found at https://www.wiltshire.gov.uk/benefits-council-tax-reduction.

Written by
Andy Munns
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Written by Andy Munns