Issue - meetings

Council Tax Support Scheme

Meeting: 12/01/2015 - Cabinet (Item 6)

6 Council Tax Support Scheme pdf icon PDF 105 KB

(Report No: 127/14-15)

Key decision, all wards

 

Report Authorised by: Strategic Director Guy Ware

 

Portfolio: Deputy Leader/Cabinet Member for Finance & Investment, Cllr Paul McGlone

 

Contact for enquiries:

Tim Hillman-Brown, Head of Benefits and Customer Centres, BCS, 07852 167 416, thillman-brown@lambeth.gov.uk

  

Minutes:

(Report 127/14-15) (Key Decision – call in ends Friday 23 January 2015)

 

The Deputy Leader of the Council, Finance and Investment, introduced the report, noting that this was the annual review of the Council Tax Support Scheme and the intention was to continue to protect those most vulnerable residents in the borough.

 

Cabinet received the following representation:

 

·         Councillor Scott Ainslie, Green Party, addressed Cabinet, encouraging Cabinet Members to continue to protect vulnerable residents and noted that the scheme did not actively and adequately protect those residents falling into arrears with their council tax payments. He mentioned a report published the previous year nationally, which suggested that Lambeth could take further steps to protect the most vulnerable residents in the borough. Council tax was increasingly significantly for the most vulnerable in the borough and this was now causing those people to fall into debt. Court summons to local people, actioned by the Council as a way of recovering outstanding council tax payments, had further negative impacts on these vulnerable residents. He urged Cabinet to ensure that bailiffs were not actively used to recover council tax debt from local residents and that officers instead were more actively involved in the recovery of such debt, to alleviate the adverse impact on the most vulnerable residents in the borough. He finally referred to a Freedom of Information request which had disclosed that bailiffs were still being utilised much too often to assist in the recovery of debts.

 

The Director, Business and Customer Services and the Head of Benefits and Customer Centres responded, noting that council tax support and recovery of debt continued to be a challenge in todays financial climate, challenges which would be further exacerbated by the forthcoming changes to the wider welfare system, expected that year. The local council tax support scheme had been developed in consultation with residents and many responses had been received and officers had listened carefully to the needs and views of residents. It was also further confirmed that Lambeth had some of the highest court fees arising from the recovery of council tax debt, however, much proactive work had also recently been undertaken to ensure residents were fully aware of the options available to them in respect of payment options, making it easier for residents to pay their council tax. Finally it was noted that a revised income and debt strategy would be brought to Cabinet in March 2015, which would also address some of the issues raised by Councillor Ainslie.

 

The Leader of the Council thanked Councillor Ainslie and officers for their comments and noted that the council tax support scheme at Lambeth was different to that of many other boroughs, offering further support for those most vulnerable residents. She also noted that there were some discrepancies across London in respect of the statistics referred to and it would be necessary to get these right. It was crucial that the Council continued to review the Council Tax Support Scheme to ensure it was fit for  ...  view the full minutes text for item 6