Council Tax

Managing the challenges of localised Council Tax Support

Commissioned by: Joseph Rowntree Foundation

  • Published 9th Jun 2015
  • Authors: Theo Barry Born, , , , Tom MacInnes, , Adam Tinson,
  • Category: Council Tax

This research examines the various Council Tax Support (CTS) schemes brought in across England since April 2013. The study sought examples of best practice, and how schemes can be designed to protect both the revenue of local authorities and the incomes of their least well-off residents.

Key findings

  • Schemes varied in type and the minimum payments expected of claimants. There were no obvious patterns by political control, demography or location.
  • Among those local authorities choosing to bring in a new system rather than absorb the cost of their 10 per cent cut in funding for CTS, approaches varied significantly. Some opted for a transition scheme in the first year. Others felt that the schemes they had devised were the best available.
  • Some councils had opportunities to recoup costs by, for instance, removing exemptions on second homes. These options are not available to all councils, but should be pursued where possible.
  • While the design of the schemes may now be settled, implementation is ongoing. There were several examples of innovative working both within councils and with the third sector to ensure that residents were informed of changes and made aware of how they would be affected.
  • While many councils have so far resisted using bailiffs or court summons for CTS debts, many now have residents with two or more years’ outstanding payments. The sustainability of the current mix of scheme design on the one hand and collection and enforcement policy on the other is therefore under question.
  • As it stands, it is hard to see how CTS can be integrated with Universal Credit (UC). The variation at local level is the opposite of the national standardisation in UC.