Backing given to reduce Council Tax for those on low incomes

Families in West Suffolk on low incomes, including those in work, suffering from the cost-of-living crisis could benefit for another year from a 100 per cent discount in Council Tax.

West Suffolk Cabinet have recommended, at their meeting yesterday, Tuesday, December 5, continuing the discount following a consultation which supported extending the current Council Tax Reduction Scheme. The council will now discuss whether to agree the discount at its meeting on Tuesday, December 19.

The move 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.

Last year saw public and stakeholder support West Suffolk Council temporarily changing the Local Council Tax Reduction Scheme for one year.

This included increasing the discount from the previously capped 91.5 per cent (where those eligible pay a minimum of 8.5 per cent of their Council Tax) to a maximum discount of 100 per cent (where those eligible would pay none of their bill).

As part of this year’s engagement the council asked residents as well as partners and those who set Council Tax such as parish, town and the county councils to have their say on whether to do this for another year. Of the respondents some 90.2 per cent agreed or strongly agreed with the proposal to extend the maximum discount on Council Tax.

The average working age recipient of the Local Council Tax Reduction Scheme (LCTRS) receive up to an additional £174 discount on their Council Tax for the single year.

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

The cost to the council would be worked through the 2024 to 2025 budget setting process.

By providing additional support to residents the aim is to help avoid crisis situations, for example, homelessness and fewer applications for Exceptional Hardship Payments from those in receipt of Council Tax support.

This is a short-term measure and if agreed the West Suffolk Council’s LCTRS would revert to the current minimum 8.5 per cent contribution rate from April 2025.

Diane Hind, cabinet member for Resources at West Suffolk Council, said: “The cost-of-living crisis is hitting many people. Which is why we are looking at extending this reduction in Council Tax to help people on low incomes, including those working, to help keep their heads above water in these difficult financial times. Last year more than 4,000 people were helped by this scheme.

“We would like to thank those who had their say, including partners. After carefully looking at the responses and the positive support for this discount to continue cabinet has recommended this should go forward to be discussed by council.

“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.”

If agreed, the changes would come into effect for one year from April 2024.

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