Issue - meetings
Meeting: 30/04/2020 - Cabinet (Item 6)
This report explains the Hardship Fund provided by the Government to help working age claimants with their Council Tax during the Covid-19 crisis.
1. The Discretionary Policy set out in Appendix A is approved.
2. Buckinghamshire Council uses its discretion to award up to an extra £150 Council Tax Reduction to working age claimants for 2020-21.
3. Any remaining funds are retained for distribution to claimants experiencing hardship using Discretionary Award Payments Policy.
4. The S.151, in consultation with the Leader and the Portfolio Holder for Resources, be authorised to make any technical scheme amendments to the Council’s Discretionary Award Payments Policy to give effect to Recommendations 2 and 3.
Katrina Wood, Cabinet Member for Resources, introduced the Council Tax Hardship item and stated that the Government had announced it would provide the local authority with grant funding to support economically vulnerable people and households in their local area, due to the Covid-19 pandemic causing some residents to struggle to meet their council tax payments. Cabinet was recommended to approve the policy for Buckinghamshire Council which was set out in Appendix A and had been drawn up in line with government guidelines. An estimated £1.6 million would automatically be given to those working age residents already on the Council Tax reduction scheme who met the government's criteria; there was no requirement for them to apply for the hardship fund as it would automatically be applied to their account. The remaining £1.2 million would be used for individuals in need and would be decided on a case by case basis. This approach was the most effective way to target the available funds to where they were needed most. It would also result in a large number of our most disadvantaged residents having to pay no Council Tax at all. Once the initial £150 awards were made, BC would be in a position to review the remaining allocation and identify the optimum method of distribution.
Government guidance suggested Billing authorities should re-visit the broader approach during the year and that they may wish to consider using remaining grant allocation as part of the wider local support mechanisms. At this early stage this report recommended that remaining funds from this specific allocation were used to give immediate extra support to claimants experiencing hardship through the established discretionary council tax awards process.
K Wood highlighted that software would be required to implement the award; updates were required to deliver a uniform and consistent approach to the claimants. M Tett advised that it had been suggested that the remaining £1.2m be given back to everybody in the county as general relief on their council tax but this would equate to approximately £2 per head and would not be in line with Government guidance.
Members of the Cabinet raised the following points:
- There would be no cash flow implications as BC had already received the £2.8 million council tax hardship grant.
- The cost of upgrading the software could be claimed back against “new burdens”.
- New bills would be issued to those in receipt of the extra relief.
RESOLVED: Cabinet APPROVED the following recommendations:
1. The Discretionary Policy set out in Appendix A.
2. That Buckinghamshire Council used its discretion to award up to an extra £150 Council Tax Reduction to working age claimants for 2020-21.
3. That any remaining funds were retained for distribution to claimants experiencing hardship using the Discretionary Award Payments Policy.
That the S.151, in consultation with the Leader and the Portfolio Holder for Resources, be authorised to make any technical scheme amendments to the Council’s Discretionary Award Payments Policy to give effect to Recommendations 2 and 3.