Agenda Item No. 7(e)
THE VALE OF GLAMORGAN COUNCIL
COUNCIL MEETING: 18 DECEMBER 2013
REFERENCE FROM CABINET: 16 DECEMBER 2013
C2119 COUNCIL TAX REDUCTION SCHEME (L) (SCRUTINY COMMITTEE – CORPORATE RESOURCES) -
Members were asked to consider the outcome of the consultation and equality impact assessment for the Council Tax Reduction Scheme and to recommend the adoption of the scheme to Council.
Welsh local authorities had until 31 January 2014 to adopt a scheme exercising any of the discretions permitted under the Prescribed Requirements Regulations. This required a decision by full Council. If authorities failed to adopt a Council Tax Reduction Scheme by that date the default scheme would apply.
With regard to the areas of discretion under the Prescribed Requirements Regulations, local authorities would only be able to implement discretionary elements that were more generous than the minimum requirements set out in the regulations, and that any flexibility was to be locally funded.
The changes to the scheme in 2014-15 were mainly technical and were set out in Appendix A attached to the report.
The discretionary elements outlined in the prescribed scheme regulations were as follows:
· The ability to increase the standard extended reduction period of 4 weeks given to persons after they return to work where they had previously been receiving a council tax reduction that was to end as a result of their return to work;
· Discretion to disregard part or the whole amount of War Disablement Pensions and War Widow’s Pensions when calculating income; and
· The ability to backdate the application of Council Tax Reduction with regard to late claims prior to the standard period of three months before the claim.
With regard to extended payments it was proposed that the Council should continue to allow extended payments up to a maximum of 4 weeks for the Council Tax Reduction Scheme in 2014-15 because this incentivesed people to work or take on extra hours of work and any claimant moving into employment was likely to receive their first payment from their new employer within the timescale.
With regard to War Pensioners it was proposed that the council should continue to disregard War Widow and War Disablement pensions in assessing income for Council Tax Reduction in 2014-15.
With regard to backdated awards it was proposed that the council should continue to allow backdated benefit for the Council Tax Reduction Scheme in 2014-15 for a period up to 26 weeks. It would be difficult for 'good cause’ to be proved continuously by the customer for any longer period. Also under the Housing Benefit rules backdating was for a maximum of 26 weeks which would ensure that the two schemes remain aligned. If both schemes were not aligned it would be very confusing for the customer as it would be very difficult to explain the differences in the two schemes.
The Council was required to consult in relation to the decisions on exercising discretions for the locally based scheme. In December 2012 the Council undertook an extensive consultation and wrote to all claimants who were at that time in receipt of Council Tax Benefit. The report was set out at Appendix B. As the Welsh Government have recently made new regulations which replicate the existing 2013/14 regulations on which the national Council Tax Reduction Scheme was based then the same level of consultation was not required. The consultation was posted on the council's web site with a hard copy being available at the Council Tax and Benefits enquiry counter. The consultation report will be circulated following the closure of the consultation on 13 December 2013.
The Council was also required to undertake an equality impact assessment in relation to the decisions to be made regarding the exercise of discretions. In addition to consultation with residents the Council also consulted with local interest groups.
The outcome of the equality impact assessment would be circulated following the closure of the consultation on 13 December 2013, and the report would be forwarded for Council to consider on the 18 of December 2013.
At the meeting the Leader tabled a supplementary report in relation to paragraph 23 of the report that presented the outcome of the consultation and equality impact assessment following the closure of the consultation on 13 December 2013.
This was a matter for Council decision.
(3) T H A T the national scheme be adopted with the following discretions
· That the Council should continue to allow extended payments up to a maximum of 4 weeks.
· That the Council should continue to disregard War Widow and War Disablement pensions in assessing income for Council Tax Reduction.
· That the Council should continue to allow backdated benefit for a period up to 26 weeks.
Reason for decisions
(1-4) To enable the Council Tax Reduction Scheme to be approved by Council by 31 January, 2014 and be in place for implementation from 1 April 2014.