Scheme which helps thousands of Hartlepool families pay their council tax is set to continue
Council bosses called for extra help for working families struggling to pay council tax - after maintaining their local support scheme.
Hartlepool Borough Council’s finance and policy committee approved the move to continue its local council tax support (LCTS) scheme at the same rate for the sixth consecutive year.
Councillors called for the support to be means-tested.
Coun Lisa Smith said: “I’m glad, we should carry on helping people, but we should look at going back to proper means-tested ways instead of the Department for Work and Pension saying what families should be earning.
Coun Brenda Harrison said: “From my experience as a councillor we need to do as much as possible to protect lower-wage people in the community.
“There’s people working but not earning a great deal, and they can be be vulnerable in all sorts of ways.”
Council finance bosses said they will look into how the LCTS scheme will be administered across the borough.
Currently 13,200 households in Hartlepool receive council tax relief from the local authority.
Since 2013/14 funding transferred by the government for LCTS schemes was cut overall by 10% nationally.
Councils are required to fully protect low income pensioners eligible for support, which means the initial funding cut falls on working age households and built a 20% reduction for the group.
The council has avoided implementing LCTS cuts of 20% over the last five years, limiting the reduction to 12% since 2014/15, which was approved to be maintained for 2019/2020.
Coun Christopher Akers-Belcher said: “A lot of work has gone into maintaining this scheme, and if you compare it across the Tees Valley we come across very favourably.”
The cuts came in 2013 after the Government abolished the former national council tax benefit and replaced it with a requirement for councils to determine their own LCTS.
Funding for individual councils was moved to be included in the Core Revenue Grant allocation for each authority.
Other Tees Valley councils have operated LCTS schemes involving cuts of 20% since April 2013, with Redcar and Cleveland moving to 17.5% from 2017/18 and Middlesbrough introducing a 15% scheme from 2018/19.
The net costs of LCTS awards is expected to be £11.96million for 2018/19, which is predicted to rise to £12.33million in 2019/2020.
Nic Marko, Local Democracy Reporting Service.