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Council tax support scheme set to continue

12 February 2020 

A scheme that reduces the amount of Council Tax paid by the most vulnerable people in South Lakeland looks set to continue in 2020/21.

South Lakeland District Council’s (SLDC) Cabinet backed the scheme and has recommended the continuation of the Local Council Tax Reduction Scheme, which has been in place since 2013.

The scheme continues to offer up to 100% reduction for all eligible residents, supporting people on benefits or low incomes. Last year it helped 4,618 households in South Lakeland, with just over half of recipients being pensioners.

The combined reductions under the Local Council Tax Reduction Scheme were worth £5.14 million in 2019/20. 

The scheme was introduced as a replacement for the national Council Tax Benefit Scheme, which was abolished in 2013. The old national scheme was paid for by a 100% grant from central government, but this was reduced to 90% when responsibility for the grant was passed to local authorities.

SLDC, with the support of Cumbria County Council and the Cumbria Police Authority, met the cost of the 10% grant reduction, about £560,000, by making technical changes to council tax.

This has included reducing the Council Tax discount on second homes from 10% to 0%, introducing a 100% Council Tax on properties left unoccupied for more than six months and introducing a 50% Council Tax premium on properties left empty for more than two years. The extra income generated from these changes has been used to offset the 10% government grant reduction. 

The 50% premium on empty properties has also had the added benefit of encouraging owners to bring long-term empty properties back into use and has led to an overall reduction in the number of homes in the district that remain vacant for long periods.

Councillor Andrew Jarvis, Portfolio Holder for Finance and Resources, said: "This is an important scheme which our council's commitment to our objective of alleviating poverty. It shows we will not resort to penny pinching and is not something we have to do, but choose to do to help protect the poorest and most vulnerable residents in our area."

Councillor Suzie Pye, Portfolio Holder for Health, Wellbeing and Financial Resilience , said: "I am proud to be associated with an authority that has as one of its main objectives helping the most vulnerable in our society. We are one of only 36 councils in the country to offer a council tax reduction scheme for working age claimants. For many this will be the difference between keeping their heads above water and being overwhelmed by debt."

For more details about the Local Council Tax Reduction Scheme and information about who qualifies please visit the SLDC website here.  

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