Local authority considers reducing support for hard-up families in Hartlepool so they pay more council tax
A consultation is to be launched on what rate of council tax support should be offered to those in need in Hartlepool.
Hartlepool Borough Council has maintained the same rate for its local council tax support (LCTS) scheme since 2014/15, but councillors have now called for it to be reviewed, claiming it could reduce the need for an overall council tax increase.
The council offers a reduction in council tax support to working-age household claimants, and finance officers recommended this is continued for 2020/21. This means eligible people have to pay a minimum 12% of their council tax, with councils required to fully protect low-income pensioners eligible for LCTS.
However, councillors on the finance and policy committee voted in favour of launching a consultation to explore increasing the rate to up to 20%.
Coun Christopher Akers-Belcher said raising the rate to 20% rather than 12% would provide an increase in funds which would reduce the need to increase council tax.
He said: “It should be a consideration as part of the budget settlement to the council. As elected members we need to consider it in the round, because in actual fact do you affect the council tax of 8,700 [working age LCTS claimers] or do you actually benefit 40,000 households in Hartlepool by not raising council tax by as much.
“Hartlepool is the fastest growing local authority in the area so there is an argument to be said in order to accelerate growth make Hartlepool more attractive, and you make Hartlepool more attractive if you have a lower council tax.”
Deputy council leader Coun Mike Young raised a motion of going to a consultation over the LCTS, which was backed by councillors.
Council finance officers had recommended sticking with the 12% rate, with a report adding they had wanted to avoid implementing LCTS cuts of 20% as part of its strategy to support vulnerable households.
Chris Little, director of finance and policy said: “I think what we need to emphasise as is highlighted in the report, other authorities in the Tees Valley are moving away from 20% schemes and are coming down.