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Torridge Councillors vote to simplify Council Tax Support scheme to benefit claimants and reduce administration

Torridge Councillors have voted unanimously to introduce a revised Council Tax Support scheme, which will seek to remove some of the frequent adjustments and reviews required under the current process. Current reviews are triggered when a claimant’s income or Universal Credit payments change or when the income of someone living with a claimant is adjusted. In the first instance claimants will now be placed in four income bands and will receive support ranging from 10% to 75% deduction in their council tax bills. The wider bandings will reduce the frequency of reviews and adjustments by allowing falls and rises within the upper or lower limits of each band without affecting the level of support they receive. In the past this has been a common occurrence particularly amongst the self-employed where a constant level of income is less guaranteed. The second change will remove the link to a non-dependant relative living in the same household as the claimant. This will mean that in a situation where a working relative lives in the same household as a claimant, the wages of the working person will no longer be part of the calculation as to what level of support the claimants will receive.

The changes will also reduce the hours spent reviewing and administering accounts, freeing up more time for officers to concentrate on other more important aspects of work that have been taken on in recent years. This has included supporting households with payments introduced by the council and central government in response to covid and more recently the cost of living crisis. For example it is expected that this will dramatically reduce the need to deal with the 21,000 notices of changes the previous system generated as a result of often relatively minor adjustments to a claimant’s income or benefit allowances. The Council currently have 1,650 working age claimants for the scheme receiving £1.6m in support, of which Torridge’s contribution is pegged at £140k. 85% of recipients are expected to receive the top level of 75% support towards their council tax liability. A consultation on the proposed changes in November resulted in the vast majority of the public voicing their support for the proposed revisions. The revised scheme is scheduled to come into effect from 1st April 2023 but will be reliant on the Councils software provider completing the required upgrades to IT systems to accommodate the new work flow and processes.

Lead Member for Revenues and Benefits – Councillor Simon Newton said:

“A review of the support scheme operated by the council is long overdue and was largely delayed due to the recent covid pandemic. The scheme that was consulted on simplifies the process, both for recipients, and our administration staff. The consultation showed broad support for the changes, which is a further endorsement for the new scheme. We hope that this will give people more stability in the support they receive without the worries of frequent reviews, which some will no doubt have found stressful” 

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