A recorded vote will be carried out in respect of the above item.
Section 106 of the Local Government Finance Act 1992 places a duty to declare an interest on any councillor who is two or more months in arrears with their Council Tax payments if they attend any meeting involved in setting the Council tax rate for the local authority. They must abstain from any vote involved in the setting of the Council tax rate until they are no longer in arrears.
The Director of Finance and the Executive Member for Environment, Finance and Governance submitted a report, which sought approval for the amendment of the Council’s Council Tax Support (CTS) scheme for 2022/2023.
The Local Government Finance Act Section 67 (2012 Act) inserted into LGFA 1992 (Functions to be discharged by the Authority) making or revising a Council Tax Support Scheme – Section 13 (2) confirms that each billing Authority in England must make a Council Tax Support scheme by no later than 11 March each year. Any scheme cannot be made by officers, with the above legislation confirming that authorisation of the full scheme is subject to member approval.
Details of the existing Council Tax Support Scheme were outlined in the report. Following a review of the existing scheme, it was clear that the means tested CTS scheme, was too reactive to change, would not be viable in the longer term now that UC had been rolled out fully within the area and given the massive increase in UC claimants due to the COVID-19 crisis. Giving weight to those circumstances, it was considered that it would be appropriate to move to a more efficient scheme from 2022/23.
It was proposed that an alternative approach be taken from 2022/23, through the redesign of the scheme to address all of the main areas highlighted in the report.
Work had been ongoing since early 2021 on designing and modelling a proposed alternative scheme.
Following approval at Executive on 5 October 2021, consultation with stakeholders, partners and the general public had now been undertaken, as well as with Major precepting authorities. This consultation had resulted in a few minor suggested changes to the proposed scheme. If agreed by the Council, the proposed alternative scheme would take effect from 1st April 2022.
Details of the revised scheme and how it would operate were outlined in the report.
It was highlighted that any change in scheme or a transition to a proposed alternative scheme could result in a change to the entitlement of certain claimants.
The changes to the scheme, would mean those regarded as the most vulnerable would gain in award, with others having a reduced award (i.e. those with capital over £10,000). It was proposed that the alternative scheme would contain additional provisions to protect individuals who experienced exceptional hardship. Where any claimant was likely to experience exceptional hardship, they would be encouraged to apply for an exceptional hardship payment. The Council would consider all applications for exceptional hardship on an individual basis, taking into account available income and essential outgoings. Where appropriate, further support would be given to the claimant.
This approach would enable individual claimants to be dealt with in a fair and equitable manner. The Exceptional Hardship Scheme would form part of the CTS scheme and would be paid through the Collection Fund.
The proposed changes, would simplify a complicated scheme, further assist low income households and support the collection of council tax, whilst also fulfilling the obligations on Local Authorities to support the roll out of Universal Credit.
Changes to the existing scheme had been subject to full consultation which ran from the 14 October 2021 to 7 December 2021, a period of over 7 weeks. Responses informed the scheme, were broadly accepted, and resulted in minor changes to the proposed capital limit and income bands for couples with 2 or more children.
A number of members spoke in support of the scheme, highlighting the assistance it provided to those residents who were in need of additional support.
In response to a query from Councillor Wright, it was confirmed that Care Leavers were still classed as exempt. Following a query from Councillor Cooke, it was confirmed that child benefit would be disregarded when calculating the amount of Council Tax Support.
The Monitoring Officer conducted a Recorded Vote. The result of the vote was as follows:
Votes For: (37)
Mr A Preston (Elected Mayor) Councillors Arundale, Branson, Cooke, Cooper, Coupe, Davison, Dean, Dodds, Furness, Grainge, Hellaoui, Higgins, High, Hill, C Hobson, J Hobson, Hubbard, Hussain, Lewis, Mason, Mawston, McCabe, Nugent, Platt, Polano, Purvis, Rathmell, Rooney, Rostron, Sands, Saunders, Smiles, Thompson, Uddin, Wilson, Wright
Following the vote, it was ORDERED as follows:
That the revised Council Tax Support (CTS) scheme for 2022/23, be approved.