To note the abolition of the council tax benefit by Government from 1 April 2013 and make recommendations to council assembly.
An addendum report was circulated setting out details of the transitional funding arrangements. This information was released by the government on the 18 October 2012 following the despatch of the cabinet report on 15 October 2012. The chair accepted the addendum report as urgent as in order to be eligible for transitional funding, authorities’ CTRS schemes must meet the eligibility criteria set out by government. Authorities are required to approve their CTRS schemes by 31 January 2013 or have a ‘default’ scheme imposed on them which does not deliver the 10% reduction in expenditure. Any decision around the design and implementation of the CTRS scheme was therefore urgent as sufficient time must be allowed for consultation to take place and for officers to engage with software suppliers to attempt to implement the necessary solution.
1. That it be noted that following the abolition of Council Tax Benefit (CTB) by government from 1 April 2013, the council is required to adopt a Local Council Tax Reduction Scheme (CTRS) in its place by 31 January 2013 with a 10 per cent reduction in funding.
2. That the extent and outcome of the consultation together with the equality analysis undertaken following approval of the approach on the 17 July 2012 and proposals to further support communities be noted.
3. That the strategic director for finance and corporate services closely monitors the impact of CTRS on the council tax collection fund.
4. That an economic wellbeing strategy is implemented to mitigate the impact on claimants facing a reduction in benefit that includes a programme of benefit maximisation undertaken via the council’s Rightfully Yours service.
5. That financial inclusion and responsibility are promoted through the provision of budgeting, employment and arrears advice in partnership with relevant external organisations and support networks including London Mutual credit union, Jobcentre Plus and local advisory services.
6. That officers consider how to establish a welfare hardship fund to mitigate some of the impact of the benefits changes to protect the most vulnerable, as part of the 2013/14 budget process.
7. That the proposals from government in relation to the option for transitional funding (paragraphs 3 – 7 of the addendum report) be noted and that officers engage with government to clarify the qualifying conditions for securing the funding within the framework of Southwark’s preferred council tax reduction scheme (CTRS).
That it be recommended to council assembly:
8. That the Section 13A Local Government Finance Act 1992 Policy (to be amended by the Local Government Finance Bill 2012) which forms the basis of the regulatory framework for the scheme be adopted.
9. To adopt the preferred CTRS (Council Tax Reduction Scheme) option which will result in capping council tax support to 85 per cent of current entitlement levels and abolish Second Adult Rebate for non-pensioners in 2013/14.
NOTE: In accordance with overview and scrutiny procedure rule 22.1(a) (budget and
policy framework) these decisions are not subject to call-in.