Policy & Resources Cabinet Member – Minutes – 18 February 2015

171      (44) REVIEW OF LOCAL WELFARE PROVISION – The Director of Policy and Resources submitted a report which set out options for Local Welfare Provision for 2015/16 onwards.  The existing scheme was funded by a specific government grant for the two years 2013/14 and 2014/15.

The Local Government Finance Settlement 2015/16 did not provide specific funding to support the continuation of local welfare provision, although the final proposals included an extra £236k to deal with pressures on local welfare and social care. It suggested that councils consider the use of core council grant funding for this purpose, and suggested an indicative figure of £407k.

The council had made some budgetary provision within the Financial Plan to provide support to vulnerable residents. The report sought approval for the Cabinet Member Policy and Resources to implement a new scheme which would provide emergency support for the financially vulnerable in the event of a crisis caused by fire or flood.

Local Welfare Provision was introduced in 2013.  This was a new scheme to be administered by the council, funded via a specific grant from central government.

Government provided funding for the scheme by way of two separate grants. In 2014/15 the council received £87k for the administration of the scheme, and programme funding of £453k intended to support financially vulnerable citizens.

The scheme implemented by the Council provided Community Support Grants, supplemented by additional provision for certain crisis payments.

Community Support Grants were granted to people experiencing financial hardship, following receipt of a paper based application form. Crisis payments were accessed via a telephone based application, with an immediate decision provided with same day payment.  Success criteria was limited to victims of flood, fire and emergency.

The report outlined details of the proposed scheme, to be accessed by support officers or organisations in order to assist financially vulnerable individuals in the event of unanticipated crisis such as flood or fire. The scheme would be cash-limited to the available budget.

Full details of the proposed scheme were outlined within the report.

Resolved – That the current Local Welfare Provision scheme be replaced with the scheme outlined in paragraph 4.1 of the report, with effect from 1 April 2015, with a cash-limited budget of £50k per annum.

172      (45) COUNCIL TAX FLOOD DISCOUNT – The Director of Policy and Resources submitted a report which sought to determine whether the duration of the local council tax discount granted to those households affected by the floods in December 2013 be extended.

Council Tax discounts were created from 1 April 2013, under powers granted in section 11a of The Local Government Finance Act 1992, to replace deleted exemptions for dwellings vacated for a short period and those unoccupied and requiring major repairs. Initially, a section 11a discount, 100% for three months followed by 50% for a further nine months was awarded to taxpayers who vacated their dwelling.  Also, a 50% allowance was granted under the provisions of The Local Government Act 2000, to taxpayers in partial occupancy.

The powers under section 13a of The Local Government Act 1992 allowed the Council to introduce a local discount for particular circumstances or by category of property. The Council used this power and replaced the section 11a discounts and allowance with a 100% section13a discount for nine months. The discount was extended in September for a further six months, at 100% for the first three months and at 50% from 5 December 2014 to 4 March 2015.

The council tax discount had been awarded in respect of 198 properties. Most properties were now fully occupied but there remained 16 dwellings still entitled to a discount.  Of these, 11 properties remained unoccupied and 5 were partly occupied.        Council tax Inspectors regularly monitored the status of each property to advise council taxpayers of their correct liability.

The Council had the discretion as to the level and duration of the locally defined section 13a discount.

Resolved – That the section 13a discount be extended for a further four months, at 50% from 5 March 2015 to 4 July 2015.

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