Hartlepool council tax support rate set to remain at 12% after plan to increase revenue fails to get public backing
Councillors have backed maintaining the current level of council tax support offered to residents in need after holding a consultation looking at increasing the amount they have to pay.
Hartlepool Borough Council had maintained the same rate for its local council tax support (LCTS) scheme since 2014/15, but councillors on the Finance and Policy Committee called for it to be reviewed.
The council currently offers a 12% rate for local council tax support to working-age household claimants, and has done for the past six financial years.
This means those applicable for the scheme have to pay a minimum 12% of their council tax, with councils required to fully protect low income pensioners eligible for LCTS support.
The consultation looked at retaining a 12% scheme, or introducing 14%, 16%, 18% or 20% schemes for 2020/21, after councillors claimed it could reduce the need for an overall council tax increase.
The findings have now gone back to the council Finance and Policy Committee and councillors have voted in favour of maintaining the existing scheme.
Council leader Coun Shane Moore said: “My personal opinion is that the current scheme is the best one we can move forward with and that’s also been shown in the comments from respondents.
“It’s a good balance between keeping it affordable for council tax payers of those most vulnerable who need to pay some, but at the same time it does mean we are able to still collect what’s due.”
In total 64% of the 343 people who responded to the consultation wanted the council to maintain the current level of council tax support offered.
The Hartlepool Joint Trade Union Committee also submitted a letter requesting the council reject any increase to the LCTS scheme.
John Morton, council assistant director finance and customer services, said maintaining the current rate is the right move.
He said: “Higher LCTS percentages will of course provide more council tax income but that income will become increasingly difficult to collect and the probability is increased provisions will have to be made which will offset any increase.
“Based on experiences over the last six years continuation of the current scheme would minimise financial risks to the council and individual working age households.
“Maintaining the current scheme is the way forward which also has the greatest support from the public.”
Coun Christopher Akers-Belcher said the consultation reinforced the need for such a scheme and also called for looking at the possibility of providing a 10% LCTS scheme in future years.
He added funding could be used from the local welfare support scheme to help implement the change, which council officers said they would look into going forward.