PRESS RELEASE – 21 FEBRUARY 2019. (FROM SHDC)
Important information for working age people about changes to the Council Tax Reduction Scheme from 1 April 2019.
Following consultation with the public, South Hams District and West Devon Borough Councils will be introducing a new scheme to help those on a low income to pay their Council Tax.
The Councils have looked carefully at the support scheme and designed something that offers extra assistance to the most vulnerable residents while dealing with the ever changing landscape of welfare reform.
Under the current scheme, some people claiming Universal credit were getting a new bill each month when their circumstances changed. The Councils understand this makes it really difficult for people, already on low incomes, to properly plan or budget their money.
The new scheme leads the way, as the first of its kind in Devon, and will assess how much support a person receives based on their net income. The design means that a change in someone’s income won’t necessarily create a new assessment and Council Tax bill. The scheme has been designed not to react to changes unless they are big enough to take residents into a new income band. Residents will be able to look at a simple table and see what support they are allowed. It’s really simple and easy.
The joy of the new system is that the Councils are fully in control of the scheme and can now do what they can to ease the pressure on residents. What this actually means, is that the Council will make sure that workers are not put off from doing any extra work when they can, because of the difficulty it has taken in the past to pay their Council Tax.
Hand-in-hand with the new scheme, is the Exceptional Hardship Fund, which is already available for those people who are really struggling to make ends meet.Now the Councils will work out how much money is coming into the home and will ignore any money from Disability Living Allowance, Personal Independence Payments and War Disablement Benefits. As usual, they will continue to also ignore any Child Benefit and Child Maintenance Payments. With all of these changes in mind, most residents would see an increase in their awards, making it much easier for them to live more comfortably.
South Hams District Council’s Portfolio Holder for Customer First, Cllr Hilary Bastone said: “This new and improved scheme will go a long way to supporting vulnerable residents through these challenging financial times. The major reason we are changing the scheme is to make it easier and less confusing for those residents who are struggling, to be able to claim a discount in their Council Tax.” South Hams District and West Devon Borough Councils are the first councils in Devon to respond to the changing needs of residents, and to make sure that wherever possible, the most vulnerable are protected and helped.
The way reductions in Council Tax are given to pension-aged people is unchanged, as this is set by central Government.
The Councils are pleased to announce that the new scheme, in most cases, will see an increase in amounts awarded to those in the greatest need.
West Devon Borough Council’s Lead Member for Health and Wellbeing, Cllr Tony Leech said: “Cutting all the paperwork and having less bills going out will make it much easier for our customers to manage their budgets. We will protect our most vulnerable residents even further, by using our Exceptional Hardship Scheme to support those in the most need.”
To find out how these changes will affect you, go to:
NOTES TO EDITORS
Please find attached a link to a video about the new scheme. https://youtu.be/weXtDpiO3nY
Fancy standing as councillor?
A number of parish councillors will inevitably depart at the end of this term. Provided there is enough interest amongst the community in standing as councillor, elections will then be held on 2 May 2019.
The parish council really benefits from bringing in new people with new skills or different viewpoints.
More info below. If you are interested in standing, please contact our clerk, Karen Smith here
Although we fortunately don’t see the extremes of poverty referenced in this latest independent report from the UN, it does point to some of the funding issues that I am seeing in my role on Staverton Parish Council, and so I thought it relevant to post it here.
Here are a few key quotes. Or read the full report – useful to gain an outside non-partisan view on what’s happening in our country.
“Local authorities, especially in England, which perform vital roles in providing a real social safety net have been gutted by a series of government policies”
“According to the National Audit Office, local governments in England have seen a 49% real-terms reduction in Government funding from 2010-11 to 2017-18 alongside a rise in demand for key social services.”
“Cuts are being made without either measuring or accounting for their broader impact, such as increasing the need for crisis support and mental health services. People are being pushed toward much more expensive services that can’t turn them away, like accident and emergency rooms.”
“In England, homelessness is up 60% since 2010, rough sleeping is up 134%.54 There are 1.2 million people on the social housing waiting list, but less than 6,000 homes were built last year.55Food bank use is up almost four- fold since 2012,56and there are now about 2,000 food banks in the UK, up from just 29 at the height of the financial crisis.”
Despite the idyllic traditional image of the English countryside, poverty in rural areas is particularly harsh. Rural dwellers are particularly impacted by cuts to transportation and public services, are at a higher risk of loneliness and isolation, and often face higher fuel costs.
“The experience of the United Kingdom, especially since 2010, underscores the conclusion that poverty is a political choice. Austerity could easily have spared the poor, if the political will had existed to do so. Resources were available to the Treasury at the last budget that could have transformed the situation of millions of people living in poverty, but the political choice was made to fund tax cuts for the wealthy instead.”
“Loneliness rates have soared in recent years and life expectancy rates have stalled in the United Kingdom, with the latest statistics showing a sharp drop in the annual improvement that has been experienced every year since the records began, and an actual drop for certain groups.”
“Transport, especially in rural areas, should be considered an essential service, equivalent to water and electricity, and the government should regulate the sector to the extent necessary to ensure that people living in rural areas are adequately served. Abandoning people to the private market”
Applications are now welcomed from community groups/organisations for the annual Parish Council grants. The closing date is noon on 31st Jan 2019. The application form is further down this page. The Council aims to consider applications at the December Parish Council meeting – with cheques issued thereafter.
Please contact me for any further info click here
Karen Smith (Clerk)
There is an ongoing Consultation Period running from 22/10/18 – 3/12/18. The local public ‘drop-in’ event is to be held on Thursday 1 November from 2pm – 7pm at SHDC in the Repton Room, Follaton House, Totnes.
Documentation can also be viewed at the Library in Totnes, at Totnes Town Council and at South Hams District Council – paper copies of the schedules and updated policies maps will be available to view during opening hours.
Click here to read the information and feed back.
The following has come through from South Hams DC regarding changes to support for Council Tax. Do you get a discount on your Council Tax? If so, I advise you read this and submit your comments. They say there will be winners and losers, but I would imagine there’ll be more of the latter.
|Tel: 01803 861368||Email: email@example.com|
Have your say on possible changes to our
Council Tax discount scheme
Every year local councils have to take a look at their existing Council Tax Reduction scheme and make a decision whether to replace or revise it. Council Tax Reduction Schemes enables residents to apply for a discount on their Council Tax.
This year South Hams District Council is proposing a number of changes and have put together a list of options which they would like customers to comment on.
Cllr Hilary Bastone South Hams Executive Member for Customer First said: “This year we are proposing a number of changes. This is because we have now brought in Universal Credit across the whole District and our Council Tax Reduction scheme needs to change to reflect how Universal Credit works. We also want to make it easier and clearer for customers to understand the process and keep on top of any changes in their own circumstances.”
One of the proposed changes is the introduction of a simple grid with benefit bands, which will replace the current complex benefit assessment, making it easier for customers to see and manage their discount.
This proposed change and 10 others, including limiting the number of dependent children considered on a claim, and disregarding carer’s allowance which is currently taken into account when the discount is calculated, can be viewed on the Council’s engagement portal. All customers are encouraged to read the information and fill in a short survey with their thoughts.
Cllr Bastone continued: “When you make changes to any benefit scheme, there will inevitably be some people who gain more and others who get a little less. We are keen that these changes should reflect the changes across our whole benefit system and bring this scheme inline, to make it clearer easier and fairer for everyone. On the survey, and the engagement portal, we have clearly explained the benefits and drawback of all the proposals to make it easier for people to add their comments and reach an informed opinion.”
Notes to Editors
In April 2013, the Council Tax Benefit Scheme was replaced by a new Council Tax Reduction Scheme. Council Tax Benefit had been funded by the Department for Work and Pensions and supported people on low incomes by reducing the amount of Council Tax they must pay.
The Council Tax Reduction scheme is determined locally by District Councils rather than the Department of Work and Pensions. Although the Government initially provided funding for the scheme, the funding has reduced each year in line with the reduction in Revenue Support Grant provided to councils. From 2019 no funding will be provided for the scheme.
People can claim Council Tax Reduction if they are on certain benefits. The current scheme requires all working age applicants to pay a minimum of 20% of their Council Tax (a maximum level of support of 80%). Applicants in receipt of income based Jobseekers Allowance, Income Support and Income Rated Employment and Support Allowance receive the maximum level of support. Others receive a level of Council Tax Reduction based on their income and other factors.
A separate Central Government scheme is retained for people of pension age and Councils are only able to vary their schemes for people of working age.
South Hams District Council have informed Staverton Parish Council that the public toilets in Staverton are going to be closed unless Staverton Parish Council takes them on. SHDC estimate the annual costs at £7,000 per year. This is surely excessive, but even if the true cost is a somewhat lower, it still would represent a huge chunk of the council’s budget of approx £15,000.
The parish council is fighting this closure and has written the following letter to SHDC. The council has discovered that SHDC made a substantial payment to Stoke Gabriel council to help them take over their public toilets (£7,500 per year for five years). Staverton PC has written to SHDC to request the same deal and SHDC have stated that they are no longer offering this deal.
If you agree with the council and are unhappy about this, please add you voice and make a complaint to SHDC.