Agenda item

Council Tax Support and Local Welfare Assistance

To consider the planned changes to Council Tax Support and Local Welfare Assistance, including pre-scrutiny of new plans and impact of current policies.

Minutes:

        Councillor Southwood (Lead Member for Housing & Welfare Reform, Brent Council) and David Oates (Head of Customer Services Operations) introduced the report. Councillor Southwood highlighted that key focus was on the ability to pay and the scheme was cost neutral.

 

        Resources and Public Realm Scrutiny Committee was asked to provide feedback and comments on the proposals to feed into the wider public and stakeholder consultation before the final scheme took shape.

 

In considering the report, the following key points and comments were highlighted:

 

·                A number of factors that drove the proposal to review the CTS scheme for 2020/21 were: to design a scheme which was fit for future needs - in particular how residents in receipt of Universal Credit (UC) were treated; to address any elements of the current scheme which were unsustainable or undesirable in the long-term (primarily these relate to the assessment of claimants on UC and the criteria for exemption), to streamline administrative processes and reduce complexity for claimants; the Council was committed to maintaining the current level of funding for CTS, so any changes to the scheme must be cost neutral to Brent; and to ensure that the financial support available was going to those residents who were at least able to pay council tax because they were struggling with poverty, and reviewing the scheme provides an opportunity to evaluate this and recalibrate specific levels of support if appropriate.

 

·                The proposed scheme had two key elements: a banded discount element based on the claimant’s net earned income (with DWP and HMRC benefits disregarded); and revised deductions to entitlement in respect of other adults (non-dependants) living in the claimant’s property (particularly those non-dependants with significant earnings). Proposing to simplify and streamline the charges based on income - appendix c.

 

·                Over recent months, the Council’s Local Council Tax Support1 (CTS) scheme had been reviewed, by officers working in conjunction with a Member Working Group, and a new draft scheme developed, intended to take effect from 1 April 2020. The proposed change required a public consultation.

 

·                This report summarised the proposed scheme which had been developed and which was currently subject to public and stakeholder consultation until 10 October 2019. It also set out the reasons why it was necessary to change the scheme.

 

·                In legislation, the scheme was referred to as a Council Tax Reduction Scheme (CTRS). Council Tax Support (CTS) was the name given to Brent’s current local scheme.

 

·                The proposed scheme also contains a number of other features and rules which were outlined in the report and its appendices.

 

The Chair thanked the Lead Member and Officers for the introduction to the report and subsequently invited questions from the Committee - Members raised the following queries and comments:

 

·                Referring to Appendix A, what other schemes were considered as there was not enough details.

 

·                Charging non-dependents - calculation on gross figures for non-dependents whereas on the net figures for actual applicants needed to be reviewed.

 

·                Percentage of total income should be carefully considered and the impact of impact on weekly take-home pay analysed and case studies be made available.

 

·                To take into account any stakeholders’ concerns including zero hour contracts.

 

·                A range of publicity and engagement sessions were being carried out including an event on 2 October, as well as, directly writing to all those people affected directly by the scheme.

 

·                Inflation/deflation was reviewed each year.

 

·                Well done and thank you for a good report and a reasonably fair draft scheme, except a few minor tweaks/concerns highlighted above.

 

RESOLVED:

 

The Resources and Public Realm Scrutiny Committee:

 

i.         Noted that the proposed Council Tax Support scheme which was    subject to public and stakeholder consultation until 10 October        2019.

 

ii.        Recommended that the Cabinet look into the gross/net disparity based        on legacy about income thresholds and report back on the resolution.

 

In addition, the Resources and Public Realm Scrutiny Committee made the following information requests:

 

a.    To receive a report on local welfare assistance for pre scrutiny, as soon as possible, when ready.

 

b.    To receive more detailed case studies and information on costs as a percentage of weekly income and impact on weekly take-home pay rather than raw figures.

Supporting documents: