Local Council Tax Reduction Scheme consultation starts

24 Oct 2022

As part of West Suffolk Council’s work to ease the cost of living for communities, people are being asked to have their say on options to increase for one year the Council Tax discount given to low-income households.

In light of the national challenge of the cost of living the council is engaging with the public and stakeholders on options to temporarily change the Local Council Tax Reduction Scheme.

The options include increasing the discount from the current capped 91.5 per cent (where those eligible pay a minimum of 8.5 per cent of their Council Tax) to either 95 or 100 per cent (where those eligible would pay a minimum of five percent or none of their bill). 

The consultation can be found at Smart Survey - West Suffolk Local Council Tax Reduction Scheme Proposals

If it was to go ahead it would see for the average working age recipient of the Local Council Tax Reduction Scheme (LCTRS) up to an additional £103 discount on their Council Tax for the single year.

The proposal is highly targeted to reach those who are already on means-tested benefits and has low administrative costs. This could benefit around 4,700 residents - representing a one year only £500,000 investment by organisations that set Council Tax precepts in supporting those in need that meet the criteria.

At the moment these are just draft proposals which the council will want to hear people’s thoughts on before they are considered to be taken forward. It is part of a range of ways the council is supporting communities including those with the highest risk of financial hardship as a result of the current cost of living crisis. The consultation has started and will end on 18 November with West Suffolk Council’s Cabinet due to look at the views at their meeting on 6 December 2022 before making their recommendation to full Council on 13 December 2022.

The cost to the council would be worked through the 2023 to 2024 budget setting process if agreed.

There would also be cost implications for Suffolk County Council, Suffolk Police and town and parishes who will be part of any consultation.

The aim is that by providing additional support to customers it could help avoid crisis situations, for example, homelessness and lead to fewer applications for Exceptional Hardship Payments from those in receipt of Council Tax support.

This proposal is a short-term measure for the financial year April 2023 to March 2024. After this period West Suffolk Council’s LCTRS would revert to the current minimum 8.5 per cent contribution rate.

Cllr Sarah Broughton, Deputy Leader and Portfolio Holder for Resources and Property for West Suffolk, said: “There is a range of activities and support that we have been delivering to help our communities during these challenging times. In Suffolk there is tremendous joint work going on in which West Suffolk is playing its part to aid people facing this cost-of-living crisis. This review by West Suffolk Council of the Local Council Tax Reduction Scheme is part of the authority’s work to aid those on low income. We want to know people’s thoughts about the options for a one-year increased discount and urge everyone to have their say.”

In Suffolk, the proposals would help support Suffolk County Council’s Tackling Poverty Action Plan by maximising residents’ financial resilience.

The move also follows the council’s work in supporting communities with the cost of living. This includes:

County-wide Collaborative Communities Board and other Suffolk-wide work - A range of activities to make sure those in need, including the most vulnerable, get the right advice by the right support agencies – from information to improving people’s homes to help reduce their bills and improve wellbeing.

Direct Support from West Suffolk – This includes helping people gain statutory and discretionary rebates or payments for Council Tax, Discretionary Housing Payments and funding to help with rent or furniture costs. We have helped children who normally have free school meals and their parents enjoy healthy activities as well as receive food and cooking information. In addition, with officers dedicated to help with welfare and housing to prevent homelessness and stay independent.

Supporting community groups – This includes providing information and support for groups to access the right help to aid their communities as well as much needed funding. In addition, the Community Chest fund has been increased by 10 percent to help community groups access funding to tackle cost of living issues.

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