Council Tax hardship support scheme looks set to continue

Thursday 10th February 2022 2:05 pm
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Cllr Alan Connett, leader of Teignbridge District Council. Picture: LDR service, 2022 ()

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Teignbridge’s council tax support scheme, in which those in greatest hardship pay nothing, is set to continue next year.

The district council is one of only 20 per cent of local authorities in the country to offer eligible residents a full discount on their bill, and the only one in Devon.

Councillor Richard Keeling (Lib Dem, Chudleigh), member for corporate resources, this week told a meeting of the council’s ruling executive that it was ’not the time to consider cutting support or making other changes to the scheme.

’Our residents need some stability, and certainly as we emerge from the covid crisis we need the time and a more sustainable baseline to carry out a review of our scheme’s performance, before determining whether we need to make any changes for the future.’

In approving the policy, which will need to be ratified by full council, the executive also agreed to adjust the thresholds to ensure those on the lowest levels of benefits don’t lose out because of an upcoming rise in welfare payments.

A council report explaining the policy stated there were 5,716 working age council tax reduction claimants in December, a slight drop from a peak of almost 6,000 last April. The cost of the scheme - around £10 million per year - is shared between Teignbridge and the three other major recipients of the council tax: Devon County Council, police and the fire service. Teignbridge contributes just under nine per cent.

It was changed in 2020, introducing an income-based scheme, with overall household income and size used to determine how much discount they are eligible for.

Cllr Keeling said it is ’easier for our customers to understand, quicker for our council tax team to administer and better able to cope with minor fluctuations in universal credit entitlement.’

Council leader Alan Connett (Lib Dem, Starcross & Kenton) said he hadn’t realised Teignbridge were ’unique in Devon’ in still offering the full discount to some households, adding: ’Looking ahead, with the bills that are going to come into people with power, utilities and all rest of it, [the scheme] is going to be a real help.’

When asked how it is promoted to people, an officer said there was more information online and those who phone up the council struggling to pay their bill are also made aware of the help on offer.

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