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Maximum support for residents on lowest incomes

11 February 2019

A scheme that reduces the amount of Council Tax paid by the most vulnerable people in South Lakeland looks set to continue in 2019/20.

Our Cabinet backed the scheme and has recommended that the Local Council Tax Reduction Scheme that has been in place since 2013 continues.

The scheme continues to offer up to 100% reduction for all eligible residents, supporting people on benefits or low incomes. Last year it helped 4,734 households in South Lakeland, with just over half of recipients being pensioners.

The combined reductions under the Local Council Tax Reduction Scheme were worth £4.979 million in 2018/19.

A report before the committee said: “The current scheme in its present state continues to provide those residents in South Lakeland on the lowest income the maximum amount of support with their council tax liabilities. In common with all other Cumbrian local authorities, maintaining our current scheme keeps South Lakeland’s position as one of only 37 councils (April 2017) offering a fully-funded council tax reduction scheme for working age claimants.”

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.

We met this 10% grant reduction to be able to continue offering the benefits from the Local Council Tax Reduction Scheme by making a number of adjustments to our Council Tax discounts.

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, our finance portfolio holder, said: “This is a scheme that the council doesn’t have to do but chooses to do because it helps protect the poorest and most vulnerable residents of this district.

“This scheme is one which makes a real contribution towards improving the financial wellbeing of people who could otherwise find themselves facing real hardship.”

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