Council Tax support scheme to continue

25 February 2021 

A scheme that reduces the amount of Council Tax paid by the most vulnerable people in South Lakeland is to continue in 2021/22.

A meeting of South Lakeland District Council’s (SLDC’s) Full Council on Tuesday (23 February) backed 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 4,856 households in South Lakeland, with just under half of recipients being pensioners.

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.

Proposing the scheme be continued, Councillor Andrew Jarvis, Portfolio Holder for Finance and Resources, said the scheme had cross-party support and added: "We are one of only a few councils that continues to offer 100% relief and we should be proud as a council that we have this scheme. It provides vital support to some of the most vulnerable of our residents and during the pandemic we have seen an increase in the number of working-age claimants.

“This isn't something that as a council we have to do, but it is something we choose to do."

Seconding the proposal, Councillor Suzie Pye, Portfolio Holder for Health, Wellbeing and Financial Resilience, said: “For many residents this will mean the difference between coping or not. The associated worry, stress, and the effect on an individual’s mental wellbeing when dealing with spiralling debt has been well documented. Anything we can do to mitigate that is not only the right thing to do, it is the wise thing to do.

“By maintaining the Council Tax Reduction Scheme at its current level, we are allowing people to manage, to then flourish, and to thrive.’’

Councillor Tom Harvey said: "We are delighted to continue to support this scheme.’’

Councillors were also told that SLDC had received £487,092 from Government last year to support economically vulnerable people and households in response to COVID-19 to provide Council Tax relief alongside existing Local Council Tax Support schemes to all working-age recipients of Council Tax Reduction during 2020/21.

SLDC increased the maximum support available from £150 to £300, to reduce the net Council Tax liability of all working-age recipients of local Council Tax support throughout 2020/21.

More details about the Council Tax Reduction Scheme and information about who qualifies.