Prior to April 2013, council taxpayers could apply for Council Tax Benefit (CTB) to help pay their council tax. Under this national scheme, council taxpayers could receive benefit of up to 100% of their council tax liability. The council then received full funding from the government for all correct Council Tax Benefit awards made.
In 2013, a reduction in government funding to councils of 10% meant that the Isle of Wight Council had to change how it managed Local Council Tax Support (LCTS). Unfortunately, since 2014/15 the amount of grant received from government to pay for the support given has been significantly reduced each year and therefore there is less money available to meet the costs of the support as well as significantly reduced resources to pay for all council services.
It is, therefore, necessary for the council to potentially consider changes to the scheme.
There are nine possible changes that could be made to how council tax support is awarded from April 2016, which could affect just over 7,000 existing working age claimants across the Island. These potential changes are:
- increase the minimum payment for all working age claimants from 20% to either 25 or 30%;
- remove family premium for new claims (in line with housing benefit changes);
- reduce backdating to a maximum of four weeks;
- applying a minimum living wage for self-employed claims after a start-up period of 12 months;
- to introduce a targeted protection scheme for applicants who may suffer exceptional hardship in place of the current blanket protection;
- reduce capital limit to £6,000 from £16,000;
- take Disability Living Allowance and Personal Independence Payments into account when calculating LCTS;
- take child benefit into account when calculating LCTS;
- limit LCTS to a maximum of council tax band B or C level.
More detail and information about how these changes may affect individual claimants are shown in the case studies, and also within the survey.
Councillor Jonathan Bacon, leader of the Isle of Wight Council and Executive member for resources, said:
“We are under increasing pressure from government to change the way we support local residents around council tax support. There are many different options available be considered, and we may have to make some tough decisions about how we move this scheme forward and provide an affordable scheme which reduces the burden on the public purse while still providing a fair level of support to those residents who are on a low income.
“As I stated at our recent Full Council meeting, we approach these potential changes with no enthusiasm. We need to enter into this consultation process to keep the door open to changes that may prove necessary in our current financial circumstance, but we have undertaken to look at all possible alternatives to any unpalatable changes to the current scheme.”
Different households will be affected in different ways depending on their individual circumstances. Case studies for each option are available alongside the consultation, online at iwight.com
Following this consultation recommendations will be considered by the council’s Executive in November, with a view to bringing in changes from April 2016.
Views of all residents are being sought, from 7th September until 6th November online at www.iwight.com/lcts . Paper copies of the survey are also available by calling (01983) 823653.