Council Tax Support
Council tax benefit – the changes
Council tax benefit is currently a national system and is paid to those households whose combined income, savings and investments are below a certain level.
We told you in August that the coalition government was going to abolish the current system of council tax benefit on 31st March 2013.
The changes have been made to encourage people who are of working age to return to work, to show that work pays, and to reduce the level of national debt.
All local councils, including Ashford Borough Council, have had to set up a new, local system that replaces council tax benefit. The new local system began on 1st April 2013.
The money the government is providing to pay for the new, local system is being reduced by 10%, so not everyone will receive the same level of support this year as they used to.
It is likely that some people will have to pay something for the first time, or something more than they used to, towards their council tax.
Our leaflet, 'Council tax benefit - the changes' can be viewed here: Council Tax Benefit Summary [pdf] 416KB. It explains the changes and how they may affect you.
Will I be affected?
The government has said that pensioners will not be affected by the changes and will continue to receive a similar level of support. If you are not a pensioner claimant then you will be affected by the changes and you need to read on.
The new, localised council tax support system
The new system incentivises work, asks those people of working age who currently claim council tax benefit to contribute something towards the shortfall, and protects vulnerable groups. These are principles behind the government’s changes and the council felt strongly it should preserve them.
The new system is as detailed below:
- Pensioners are unaffected by the changes
- Disabled claimants will receive 95% protection in their level of council tax support for as long as they are entitled to disability living allowance/personal independent payments
- Non-residential carers will also receive 95% protection
- War widows’ pension will be fully disregarded
- Working-age claimants will see a reduction in their level of council tax support for the financial year 2013-14 of 8.5%. This is a transitional year as additional funding has been made available by central government
- After the transitional year, the amended scheme before additional government funding (which would see a reduction of 17.5% for working-age claimants) will apply
The new, localised system is funded by amendments to the following exemptions and discounts:
- The 10% discount on council tax for those who own second homes is being removed
- The council-tax exemption period for short-term empty properties will be reduced from six months to six weeks
- A further 50% council tax premium will be applied for properties that are empty for more than two years
The full version of the council's localised system for the financial year 2013-14 can be viewed here: ABC CTR scheme 2013/14 in full [pdf] 760KB
How did the council determine its local system?
The council worked hard to introduce a new local system that is as fair as possible. A large number of options were considered and a preferred option was proposed. An eight-week period of public consultation was held between Monday 6th August and Monday 1st October 2012.
As a direct result of the constructive feedback we received from residents, landlords, charitable groups and parish councils, amendments were made and borough councillors approved the final changes.
The council’s consultation has been monitored by the Consultation Institute under its Consultation Compliance Assessment Scheme, and the Institute has confirmed that the exercise has fully met its requirements for best practice.
You can see the documents that were part of the consultation process here: Council tax benefit consultation documents
You can see the results of our consultation in detail here: Consultation results
Frequently asked questions
Everyone who raised specific questions about their own entitlement and their own personal financial situation under the proposed scheme received a personal response from the revenues and benefits team.
However, there were some more general frequently asked questions during the consultation process. We have produced a list of these, along with their answers, which you can view here: Council tax support – frequently asked questions
If you have any further questions please:
- Email firstname.lastname@example.org
- Phone 01233 331111; or
- Visit Ashford Gateway Plus in Church Road, Ashford or the Tenterden Gateway in Manor Row, Tenterden
For an estimate of how much council tax support you may be entitled to you can use our online benefits calculator. Should you wish to make a claim for council tax support you can do this using our online form