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This is a guide for RCN members on Council Tax Support.
From April 2013 Council Tax Benefit was replaced by new localised schemes in England, Wales and Scotland. These schemes are usually referred to as Council Tax Support (CTS) although some local authorities call it 'Council Tax Reduction'.
If you live in Northern Ireland you will not have been affected by the introduction of CTS. Northern Ireland use their own schemes called 'Housing Benefit for Rates' and 'Rate Relief'.Back to contents
The Government will continue to provide funding to local authorities in England, Scotland and Wales to support those who struggle to pay their Council Tax bill, but it will only provide 90 per cent of the funding for CTS. It will then be up to the local authorities to absorb the 10 per cent reduction in their local area.
In England, each local authority has their own CTS scheme. The support available and the qualifying criteria will vary depending on which local authority you fall under.
The Welsh Assembly and Scottish Parliament are responsible for applying their own national schemes. These schemes have been closely based on the old CTB, although local areas have been given some discretion to consider the priorities and needs of their communities. People in Wales and Scotland should not have seen much change to their benefit entitlement.
Like CTB, CTS is not available to those who are subject to immigration control (as CTS is deemed as a public fund).
You will not qualify if you have savings/capital of over £16,000.Back to contents
You should contact your local authority if you would like to apply for CTS or to find out about your local scheme.
Details of your local authority can be found here: local.direct.gov.uk
If you would like to check how these changes may affect you please see www.counciltaxsupport.com which offers a CTS comparison calculator.Back to contents
The Government in England, the Welsh Assembly and Scottish Parliament have instructed that local authorities must make sure that those who have reached state pension age and have a very low income must be given the same level of assistance through CTS as they would have done through CTB.
If you would like to find out your pension credit age please see the Gov.uk pension credit calculator. However, your entitlement to CTS at pension credit age will be affected if either you or your partner receives one of the following benefits:
The local authorities have also been advised to take into account the needs of vulnerable groups when putting together their scheme. This includes people with severe disabilities, families with caring responsibilities and those in the armed forces.
Pensioners whose capital exceeds £16,000 are excluded from the CTS scheme.Back to contents
The introduction of CTS has mainly affected working age people in England. The number of pensioners living in a particular local area can affect the financial support available to individuals and families of working age in that local authority.
Many families who were in receipt of maximum CTB now need to contribute small sums of money towards their Council Tax bill under the new scheme.
Local councils do have the opportunity to make any adjustments they feel necessary so that they can be brought into effect the next Council Tax billing year.
There are reports that some local authorities offer support to under 25s and others offer protection to families with children under five. Some local authorities have restricted the maximum CTS award to the top of band D or have increased non-dependent deductions for working age claimants. Some local authorities have decided to remove completely the second homes discount, the exemption for properties which are empty and undergoing major structural repairs or the exemption for unoccupied and unfurnished properties.
We are unable to guide you through the criteria of your own local CTS scheme so please contact your local council directly for further guidance on this.Back to contents
If you wish to appeal your original benefits decision you will need to speak to your local authority directly as appeals will no longer be dealt with by the independent Social Security and Child Support Tribunal.
A landmark judgment made on 27 May 2014, by the President of the Valuation Tribunal (England) gave the Tribunal Service (associated with Council Tax and Rating Appeals), full power to order local authorities to reduce Council Tax in part or in full taking into consideration the merits of each individual case.Back to contents
If you are unable to pay your Council Tax you should inform your local council as soon as possible. You may be able to negotiate with them a regular payment that you can afford. If you fall into Council Tax arrears and do not pay after receiving reminder letters, your local council can apply to the magistrate’s court for a liability order so that the debt can be recovered.
Usually the debt will be recovered by taking regular deductions from your wages or benefits to pay for your Council Tax. However it can involve bailiffs seizing your goods. The council can also ask the court to force you into bankruptcy.
If the value of the goods does not cover the cost of your debt arrears or you refuse to pay the bill you can be sent to prison for up to three months.
Call us if you need advice about dealing with Council Tax arrears.Back to contents
You must keep your local council up to date with any changes to your personal circumstance e.g. if your children leave school,if any one moves in or out of your family home, if your household income changes or if you or your partner’s savings and capital change.Back to contents