Local council tax reduction scheme

From April 2013, the national council tax benefit scheme was replaced by a local scheme set by each council. The Local Council Tax Reduction scheme that has been running from April 2013 works by reducing the amount of the council tax households have to pay on a means tested basis. This scheme has now been reviewed for working age claimants and changes will be implemented from April 2016.

The main changes to the working age scheme are:

  • the maximum anyone can be awarded Local Council Tax Reduction is 80% of their Council Tax liability i.e. if your council tax liability for the year is £1000 then the maximum amount of Council Tax Reduction that you will receive will be £800. This means that everyone of working age will need to be paying at least 20% of their council tax bill.
  • any child maintenance received by the customer or partner will be taken into account when calculating how much Local Council Tax Reduction you are awarded
  • if you are self employed and trading for more than 12 months then your claim will be assessed on at least a minimum income based on the national minimum wage X 16 hours for a lone parent, or X 24 hours for a single customer or couple
  • the amount of earnings that we will disregard when working out your Local Council Tax Reduction will be increased by £5.00 per week

The above changes mean that you will need to budget your money more in order to pay more of your council tax from April 2016.

PDF file downloadPensioner's local council tax reduction (PDF, 1389kb) will be calculated under the same rules as the old scheme.

For working age customers, PDF file downloadfull details of the revised scheme is available (PDF, 3184kb).

Local council tax reduction hardship scheme policy

The purpose of the scheme is to alleviate financial hardship experienced by a household due to changes in their circumstances which have created a council tax liability that they will be unable to meet.

To help those who are unable to pay their council tax, the council has provided a discretionary hardship fund of £20,000 from April 2016.

The scheme is discretionary and there is no right of financial support. The council defines financial hardship as being unable to pay for the essential needs of yourself and your family.

To be able to apply for a Discretionary Council Tax Hardship payment you must:

  • be entitled to Council Tax Reduction, or
  • have received a discount in the previous twelve months and no longer receive a discount but face financial hardship due to the changes to the Council Tax Reduction scheme from 1st April 2016
  • require further financial assistance in order to meet the difference between Council Tax liability and Council Tax Reduction scheme

Applications for financial support for local council tax reduction hardship scheme

To apply for local council tax reduction hardship scheme, PDF file downloadcomplete the application form (PDF, 287kb), which you will need to print, and send it to the address given on the form.

Applications can be made in writing, in person or over the phone and must:

  • clearly state the change in circumstance that has occurred which has generated financial hardship and difficulty to meet the council tax liability
  • provide information on household income and expenditure

The council will make an assessment of your needs, your available resources and your income as part of its decision making on your claim. We may need you to provide more details or evidence to support your claim.

We will aim to make a decision on your claim within 2 weeks. A letter will be sent to you explaining the council’s decision and the reasons why the decision was made, and the details of how much award you have been allowed if you are successful.

We will not make any award to you if:

  • you have other assets that could be used to pay your council tax
  • there are other benefits you may be entitled to, but you have not applied, or your claim has not yet been assessed
  • your situation is expected to improve in the near future and you will then be able to pay your council tax
  • there is no money left in the discretionary hardship budget

Because this is a discretionary award, there is no legal right to appeal if you disagree with our decision. However, you may ask us to review our decision, by writing to us giving your reasons why you disagree with the decision within 1 calendar month of the date of the award letter.

Please note that it is a condition of your application for council tax discretionary hardship is that you tell us about any change in your financial or family circumstances which may affect your entitlement to he award. If you fail to tell us anything relevant, you may be prosecuted for fraud.

Local council tax reduction scheme review

From 1 April 2013, the local council tax reduction scheme replaced council tax benefit. This is a reduction in the amount of council tax you have to pay and not a benefit payment. If you disagree with your council tax reduction, you may initiate a challenge under Section 16 of the Local Government Finance Act 1992, at any point after receiving confirmation of a council tax reduction.

What should you do if you are not happy with our decision?

If you do not understand your notice, please call us and we will explain the council tax benefit (reduction scheme) on your bill
A council tax payer may request the council to reconsider its decision at any point after receiving confirmation of a council tax benefit reduction. You must advise the council as soon as possible in writing, stating the grounds on which you think your council tax bill is wrong.

You can appeal if you think:

  • you should be entitled to a council tax reduction under the council tax reduction scheme
  • the amount of council tax reduction to which you are entitled to is wrong

The council will then look at your claim and advise you of the outcome of the reconsideration, outlining the reasons. If the decision is not changed in your favour, you have the right to appeal to the Valuation Tribunal for England within 2 months of the date of the reconsideration.

The council must respond to you within 2 months of receiving a challenge to the council tax benefit (reduction scheme) calculation.

Dissatisfied with the outcome, or have more than 2 months lapsed since the date of your written appeal?

If a response has not been given within a period of 2 months from the date of the written reconsideration, or where the council has considered the case and notified you of the outcome in writing but you remain dissatisfied, you may further appeal in writing to the Valuation Tribunal within 2 months.

The following specific matters can not be appealed against as the local council tax benefit reduction scheme provisions as set by the council:

  • any discretion applied to recover an overpayment of council tax reduction
  • who to recover an overpayment of council tax reduction from
  • suspending or restoring council tax reduction

You may also at any time, in writing, request the council to review your entitlement to council tax benefit reduction scheme, or the amount of any reduction, outside of the provisions for appeals detailed below.

If you think the council’s decision is wrong regarding your council tax reduction, you have the right in law to ask an independent Valuation Tribunal to look at it.

At what point can a council tax payer appeal to the Valuation Tribunal?

Before you can appeal to the Valuation Tribunal for England (VTE) you must have written to the council explaining the grounds on which you are challenging the calculation of the council tax reduction, giving the council an opportunity to resolve the matter. If you remain aggrieved then you can appeal to the VTE within 2 months of receiving a written response from the council.

If the council fails to respond to your grievance within 2 months then you can appeal direct to the VTE within 4 months of sending your grievance to the council’s decision.

You will need to fill in a council tax reduction scheme appeal form which you can do online.

The VTE cannot hear appeals about the design and contents of the council reduction scheme, but only how the scheme has been applied to your circumstances.

If you are not happy with the outcome of the Valuation Tribunal Appeal a further appeal can be made to the High Court on a point of law within 4 weeks of the date the decision notice is given or, where written reasons have been requested, within 2 weeks of the provision of those reasons, if later. It should be noted that there is no recourse to the Upper Tribunal in respect of council tax reduction scheme appeals.

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