Council Tax Reduction scheme consultation

Closes 10 Nov 2019

Opened 19 Aug 2019

Overview

 

We are consulting on a proposal to make minor changes to Southwark Council’s Council Tax Reduction scheme (CTR) for working age households from 1 April 2020.

  

The proposed changes will improve the customer experience by simplifying and speeding up access to support. The scheme itself will not change.

 

The proposed changes are necessary due to the impacts of Government welfare reform and the introduction of Universal Credit.

 

Southwark’s Council Tax Reduction scheme helps working age residents who are out of work or on low incomes pay council tax. No claimant will be better or worse off as a result of the proposed changes and we do not expect that they will result in any significant change to the overall costs of the scheme.

 

The Council runs a separate Council Tax Reduction scheme for pension age residents which it cannot change by law. Current or future pension age Council Tax Reduction claimants will not be affected by the proposed changes.

 

The Council will continue to provide additional help for the most vulnerable through its Hardship Fund and no changes to that scheme are proposed.

 

The consultation runs from 19 August 2019 to 10 November 2019 and the survey should take no more than 5 minutes to complete.

 

How we will use your data

 

If you choose to respond you will be giving us permission to process your personal data. You can withdraw your consent at any time by emailing the consultation contact address. Your personal information will only be used by our Exchequer Services team to process your responses to this survey and will be securely destroyed after 2 years, however we may keep the anonymised responses to inform other work across the Council.

 

If you are concerned about how the council uses your personal data or would like to enquire about the personal information we hold on you, please contact us via dpo@southwark.gov.uk or on 020 7525 5000. More information about your rights is available on our website, or via the Information Commissioner (www.ico.org.uk).

 

Useful abbreviations

UC = Universal Credit

CTR = Council Tax Reduction

DWP = Department for Work and Pensions

 

 

 

Why We Are Consulting

In 2013 the Government ended Council Tax Benefit and each council introduced its own Council Tax Reduction scheme to support low income working age households pay council tax.

 

The scheme introduced by Southwark has remained unchanged ever since, in spite of cuts to Government funding. Most other councils in England have made changes to their schemes over that period, reducing their levels of support. 

 

We believe that the Council's existing scheme supports the most vulnerable, that the aims of the original scheme have been realised and that no major changes are required at this time. However, we also believe that Government welfare reform and the introduction of Universal Credit (UC) means some small changes are needed if our scheme is to continue to provide the best possible support.

 

The rollout of UC in Southwark began about 3 years ago and currently about one in three of our working age residents who receive CTR also claim UC. We expect that to almost triple over the next few years, affecting many thousands of residents.

 

To claim UC an application must be made to the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP). A separate application must then be made to Southwark Council to claim CTR. The current need for  a separate application means there is often a delay, or no application is made at all for CTR.

 

To simplify and speed up access to support we would like to introduce two small changes to our scheme.

  • CTR would be calculated and awarded automatically when the Council receives a notification of a new claim for UC from the DWP.
  • CTR would be awarded from the date on which the new UC claim begins.

 

Making a claim for Council Tax Reduction automatic as part of the claim for Universal Credit

 

When someone claims UC they are asked if they wish to claim help from their Council with paying their council tax.

If the claimant says yes, when their UC claim is calculated then the DWP sends this information electronically to the Council to help them calculate how much CTR should be awarded.

Under our existing scheme, a person claiming UC is still required to make a separate claim for CTR.

To ensure that our CTR scheme is more quickly and easily accessible for those claiming UC, we are proposing that the household information provided to us by the DWP is treated as an application for CTR.

 

The advantage of this is that it removes the need for those claiming UC to make a separate application for CTR. This will reduce delays in people getting the help they are entitled to.

 

Making the start date for a CTR claim the same as the start date of the UC claim

 

Under our current scheme a CTR claim starts on the Monday after the date a CTR application is made.

 

We are proposing that the CTR start date will be the same as the UC start date. No-one will gain from this change as their CTR claim will also end at the same time as their UC claim ends. 

 

The start and end date rules for those not claiming UC will remain the same, CTR will begin on the Monday following their application and end the Sunday after they no longer qualify.

 

We have considered alternative options:

 

Introducing a separate scheme for Universal Credit claimants only

 

We do not support this approach at the current time. Although more residents are claiming UC, there are not enough to help the Council to fully understand what the financial impacts of a separate UC scheme would be. We will continue to monitor the situation and may consider introducing this  change in the future.

 

No change

 

We have considered keeping the current scheme as it is for another year. However, this would not address the current issues for those that are claiming UC. The problem of making a separate application for CTR would get bigger as more residents are required to move to this new benefit.

 

No change would also leave the issue of CTR awards not matching UC start dates. IAll other council tax discounts are awarded from the day you qualify. We believe it makes sense that those residents claiming UC have their CTR awarded from the same day.

Please give us your views on our proposed changes

Areas

  • All Areas

Audiences

  • Anyone from any background

Interests

  • Housing