To review specific discounts within the Council Tax Support Scheme (report of the Executive Director – Commercialisation (Section 151 Officer) is enclosed.)
Consideration was given to the report of the Executive Director Commercialisation (S151 Officer) which requested that the Committee review specific discounts within the local Council Tax Support Scheme for 2017/18.
The Local Council Tax Support Scheme replaced the former national Council Tax Benefit scheme from April 2013. The scheme for pensioners continued to be prescribed by government, and allowed up to 100% support against Council Tax liability. In 2014/15, South Holland District Council’s Council Tax Support Scheme required all working age households to pay at least 75% of their Council Tax liability. This scheme had been reviewed annually and retained through 2015/16 and 2016/17.
The report recommended:
· That the Committee examine current working claimant discounts and recommend changes and/or amendments to Council for the 2017/18 local Council Tax Support Scheme;
· That officers prepare a savings schedule based on the recommendations and provide this information to the Committee at its September meeting; and
· That future work include a fundamental review of the local Council Tax Support Scheme for potential changes in 2018/19.
Consideration was given by the Committee to options detailed in Appendix A to the report, and the following issues were raised:
· Was the Authority still encouraging members of the public to advise of any persons claiming Single Person Discount when they were not entitled to it?
o The Chief Accountant responded that this was still the case and he would arrange for a poster to be sent to all members to put up in their wards. He would also arrange for leaflets to be put in the Council’s main reception area, and again provide all Councillors with a copy. The Communications Department would add information to the website and social media outlets.
· The Committee raised concerns with regard to fraud in general. The Chief Accountant advised that work was being undertaken with regard to the National Fraud Initiative, and that this was a useful vehicle through which to tackle fraud. He also advised that the Performance Monitoring Panel would shortly be setting up a Task Group to investigate tenancy fraud. The Committee requested that it receive a fraud report in the near future.
· With regard to the first option – abolish second adult rebate – at what level was the income level set?
o The Chief Accountant did not have this information and commented that it would also depend on the Council Tax level. The report had not gone into such fine detail as the aim at this stage was only for the Committee to identify which areas should be looked into further.
· The Director, KPMG commented that the Council Tax and benefit schemes were not at the same level and that the Council Tax scheme should be brought down so they were more in line. He also commented that the challenge going forward in changing or amending the scheme was for it to be equitable, otherwise it could be challenged.
· Limit backdating – The Committee felt that the option of reducing this from three to one month was preferable as this would bring it more in line with benefits.
· There was discussion around a number of the options (it was generally felt that option 2 (introduce a minimum weekly amount of Council Tax Support), option 4 (restrict Council Tax to a particular band) and option 7 (limit backdating) could be the most appropriate). However, the Committee requested that a more detailed report on the options available be provided to the next Committee meeting.
· The Chief Accountant commented that the Authority had to be careful not to reduce support too far as this could then result in an increase in bad debts. A balance needed to be struck.
a) That the report be noted;
b) That the Authority’s policy of encouraging the public to advise of any individuals claiming Single Person Discount that they were not entitled to be publicised by:
· Providing all Councillors with a poster and leaflets;
· That leaflets be displayed in the Council’s reception area; and
· That the Communications Team add information to the Authority’s website and on relevant social media sites.
c) That a fraud report be presented to the Committee to address issues around fraud and how these were being addressed;
d) That with regard to the option of limiting backdating, the Committee felt that reducing this from three months to one would be a preferable option;
e) That a further report, providing more detail on the options available be presented to the next meeting of the Committee.