Agenda item

Localised Council Tax Support Scheme 2020/21

(Cabinet Member with Special Responsibility Councillor Whitehead)


Report of Head of Shared Services (Revenues & Benefits)    (Report published on 18 November 2020)


(Cabinet Member with Special Responsibility Councillor Whitehead)


Cabinet received a report from the Head of Shared Service to enable Cabinet to consider the existing Localised Council Tax Support (LCTS) and the options available, ahead of formal consideration and approval by Council for application in 2021/22.


The options, options analysis, including risk assessment and officer preferred option, were set out in the report as follows:


The challenge for the Council is to adopt a scheme that fits with its ambitions and priorities and is considered fair, deliverable and affordable, given statutory obligations and competing pressures for resources. Council is presented with two basic options:


Option 1: Retain the existing Localised Council Tax Support (LCTS) scheme, subject to minor consequential amendments to match changes in Housing Benefit rules.


·        The existing scheme is considered soundly structured and works well, and offers maximum support for low income families, who may otherwise find themselves in mounting debt.

·        The current forecast assumes the continuation of the existing LCTS system and as such, maintaining current levels of support would normally have no impact on the Council’s financial forecast. However, caseload is on the increase due to Covid-19, and it’s expected that take-up will remain higher than usual through the early part of next year.

·        Retaining existing policy principles of keeping various positive entitlement provisions for LCTS in line with other key welfare benefits promotes equality.


Option 2: Make changes to the existing Localised Council Tax Support (LCTS) Scheme to reduce benefit entitlement for working age claimants.


·        Whilst caseload numbers are on the increase month by month due to the impact of Covid-19 with a current level of 11,249 residents claiming Council Tax Support in the Lancaster district, they have gradually reduced over the years from a high of 12,202 in April 2014. As pensioners make up 36% (3,995) of claimants, it means any cut in the level of support provided falls on the remaining 64% (7,253) of working age people on low incomes, indicating an increase in number from (6,601) in the previous year.

·        A reduction in the levels of support provided could arguably provide claimants with further incentives to work, reducing their reliance on benefits, although the jobs market is particularly deflated at this difficult time.

·        This option will have greater adverse financial impact on working age households, but would help protect other Council services by requiring less savings to be made by them.

·        If levels of support are reduced, the Council would be tasked with the difficulty of collecting this debt from the more vulnerable members of our society, increasing workloads and costs associated with council tax recovery.

·         Additional costs associated with developing new scheme options, consultation exercise, legal changes to scheme etc.


The Council’s existing LCTS scheme works well in terms of providing support, but at a cost, particularly for the County Council. To date the Council has attached a high priority to maintaining council tax support levels available to working age claimants (pensioners being unaffected by Council’s decision). Adoption of a particular option should be informed by Council’s views regarding the relative priority of LCTS, compared with other services and activities in support of future corporate priorities.


Councillor Whitehead proposed, seconded by Councillor Hamilton-Cox:-


“That the recommendation, as set out in the report, be approved.”


Councillors then voted:-


Resolved unanimously:


(1)             That Cabinet supports Option (1), the retention of the existing Localised Council Tax Support (LCTS) scheme, subject to minor consequential amendments to match changes in Housing Benefit rules and that the associated options included at Appendix A to the report, be presented to Full Council for their deliberation and approval.


Officer responsible for effecting the decision:


Head of Shared Services (Revenues & Benefits)


Reasons for making the decision:


The Localised Council Tax Support scheme is developed in support of ambitions within the Council Plan regarding “Healthy and Happy Communities” to optimise access for those that need it most, together with welfare benefits and related support. The ambition is to continue with a LCTS scheme for the Council, which supports the objective of simplicity, but protects the most vulnerable residents in the district. The Council must continue to ensure that it has due regard to equality in making its local scheme, including how it will minimise disadvantage.

Supporting documents: