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Cabinet backs plans to make Borough's Local Council Tax Support scheme fairer and more efficient

Date Published: 23 November 2017

Vulnerable people across Colchester needing help to pay their Council Tax will continue to benefit from a fair, efficient scheme run by the Council.

Colchester Council's Portfolio Holder for Resources, Councillor Mark Cory, made the pledge after last night's (Wednesday) Cabinet meeting recommended changes to the Local Council Tax Support (LCTS) scheme from April next year.

The proposals, developed following public consultation, will be discussed by Full Council next month. 

Under the old national Council Tax Benefit, Whitehall set rules for how much support people received and councils ran the scheme on the Government's behalf. LCTS replaced Council Tax Benefit in April 2013. 

Since then, councils have been given the responsibility for designing their own schemes to support working-age people on a low income in paying their Council Tax.

Colchester's LCTS currently helps 9,600 vulnerable residents to reduce their Council Tax bill. In this financial year, around £8.1 million of support has been provided.

Councils review their schemes annually to ensure they continue to deliver effective support, while taking into account any changes in national legislation and Government funding.

Last night, the Cabinet proposed to retain many of the elements of the current scheme - including the innovative and important extended support provided to eligible households where someone starts a new job. This provides continued assistance until four weeks after they start work, covering them until they receive their first pay packet.

The changes that have been proposed include:

  • When assessing requests for support, certain payments will not be taken into account. This includes payments that people may have received to support them dealing with bereavement or as compensation for an injury or being affected by other events 
  • Limiting the maximum Council Tax support people can receive to the equivalent of that for a Band D property.
  • Changing the minimum level of entitlement to £2 a week before people receive support under the scheme.

Between 21 August and 2 October, the Council received more than 260 responses to a public consultation on the proposed changes to the scheme. The majority of those who replied supported the proposed changes.   

Councillor Mark Cory, Portfolio Holder for Resources, said: "Despite the continuing cuts in the government funding that we receive to run our services, we remain committed to supporting the most vulnerable members of our community.

"The help we provide through our Local Council Tax Support scheme is just one way in which we are achieving this aim. We have carefully considered the responses to the consultation and the best ways to take forward the scheme and keep it fair for all."