Our Council Tax Support scheme continues to reflect the broad aims of the Government's welfare reform agenda. It offers more support for those who are working, enhanced levels of support for the disabled and it protects pensioners.
To see if you qualify for a reduction in Council Tax try our Council Tax Support calculator.
Increasing the Needs Allowance
The Council agreed to uprate our needs allowances for working age claimants in line with Housing Benefit regulations. As the decision is to uprate needs allowances in line with the DWP rates, where there is a discrepancy between DCLG rates and DWP rates, the higher rate shall be used. The specific rates are signed off under delegated powers awarded to the Section 151 Officer, in consultation with the Leader and Deputy Leader of the Council.
Helping the disabled
The Council agreed to extend the qualifying conditions for our enhanced scheme to include Employment Support Allowance recipients who do not meet the current disability related qualifying conditions. Where the DWP has decided that an ESA claimant is entitled to the Support Component of ESA, their claim will be assessed under our enhanced scheme rules. This is in line with the Council Policy to provide additional help to those who are unable to improve their circumstances through work without extra help.
The following claimants have been protected and will have their case assessed under our enhanced scheme rules:
Those in receipt of a: Disability Premium; Enhanced Disability Premium; Severe Disability Premium; Disability Premium for Dependents; Enhanced Disability Premium for Dependents; Disabled Earned Disregard; CT Disability Reduction; War Disablement Pension; War Widows Pension; Armed Forces Compensation Scheme Payment
Carers not otherwise included in the above list are also eligible to claim enhanced levels of Council Tax Support. As a result of the Council decision Carers with the lowest incomes may have no Council Tax to pay.
Introduction of award periods
To introduce a maximum specified period of 52 weeks (1 calendar year) entitlement to support for claimants within the LCTS Working Age (working) sub group, with the exact period of award to be based on the individual circumstances of the claimant or their partner.
End liability mismatches
Where LCTS is claimed by a single occupier but they have not provided sufficient evidence for the award of a Single Occupier Discount LCTS will not be awarded and in cases where support is already being provided, this will be withdrawn. This will mean that full Council Tax will be payable unless the household discrepancy is resolved.
If you are getting Council Tax Support as a single person and no Single Occupier Discount has been applied you must contact the Revenues section on 01277 312 500.
Local Authority errors provision
In cases where the Council has made an error on an assessment for LCTS, provision of 0.48% of the total scheme expenditure should be provided within a specific fund to ensure the resident’s council tax account is not billed for that error. This is funded within the overall cost of the scheme.
Treat partners as jointly and severally liable under LCTS rules
We have revised our scheme rules which state ‘or partner’ to ‘and or their partner’. This means that regardless of who has signed the claim for support, the assessment will be treated as being made by both parties. This will bring the rules for Council Tax Support in line with other Council Tax discounts and exemptions and as well as future claims for Universal Credit.
Penalties for failing to notify a change of circumstances for Council Tax purposes
We propose to clamp down on those who fail, without reasonable excuse, to tell us that they are no longer entitled to a Council Tax discount. We will do a full review of Council Tax discounts and exemptions. Those taxpayers who fail, without reasonable excuse to tell us about changes in circumstances add directly to how much Council Tax you pay.
We propose to apply civil penalties (of £70) for the failure to notify a change if that change has not been notified to us within one calendar month.
This will apply to all discounts and exemptions, including single person discount and Council Tax support. For details of the right to appeal are available on the Valuation Tribunal website.
Penalties for failure to notify a change of circumstances for Housing Benefit
We also propose to apply a civil penalty (of £50) to those who fail to notify us about a change in circumstances within one month where they are claiming Housing Benefit. Those who fail to tell us about changes in circumstances add delays to the processing of new claims and lose the local taxpayer up to 100% of the amount that they have been overpaid.
Promoting better use of homes
From 1 April 2013, local authorities in England have been able to set an ‘empty homes premium’ for long-term empty properties. Properties which have been unoccupied and substantially unfurnished for over two years may be charged up to 150% of the normal liability
Brentwood Borough Council will be applying the premium from 1 April 2015. More information is available on our empty homes page.