You will probably be aware that the DCLG released its response to the consultation on the localisation of council tax, available here.
Previously, Policy in Practice has said speculatively that we struggled to see how local authorities would be able to meet the requirements of the consultation set out by DCLG, while also meeting the requirements set out by the DWP. The only possible solution would have been to apply deductions in council tax support ‘at source’, while significantly restricting support to working age claimants and raising the administrative burden for local authorities and claimants. It appears that this is the solution the government are pressing ahead with.
- DCLG intend to proceed with plans to introduce localised schemes in 2013-14, ready before the launch of Universal Credit.
- 29% of respondents though that local authorities should have almost complete discretion
- 17% thought that schemes should be administered nationally, through Universal Credit (UC), a further 9% though that local schemes should be aligned with UC
- The government recognises that local authorities will need support in the design of these schemes
- Billing authorities will be the default lead authority for council tax schemes
- Local authorities will need support to develop tools to to model the caseload, based only in part on the previous years caseload
- Billing authorities will have to consult on the proposed schemes with precepting authorities and members of the public on, for example
- Categories of claimants entitled to a reduction in council tax, the size of the reduction and arrangements for risk sharing
- Support is expected to be provided as an up front discount to the (probably monthly) council tax bill
- Funding will be paid on an annual basis to major precepting authorities
- Authorities will be able to provide additional support on a discretionary basis
- The administration of schemes will need further work
- Local authorities will need to outline and consult on the procedures for making applications and appealing decisions
- DCLG will request that the DWP share data, to minimise duplicating work for claimants (ATLAS, LACI, LAID, ETD, CIS, Hubs)
- The government will assess the impact of housing benefit centralisation and transitional costs of moving to new arrangements
- This is to avoid putting pressure on local government finances and will consist of
- A one-off transition to the localised schemes
- Potentially provide model schemes, shared data, work with IT providers and provide support and guidance
- Details on how government will deal with accrued rights will be set out in due course
- New arrangements may include
- Personal allowances, premiums, non-dependent deductions, disregards, second adult rebate, taper
- Payments to pensioners will remain centrally managed and aren’t expected to form part of local schemes
Whatever the ultimate outcome, it is important that local authorities feel that they are able to take a genuinely active role in supporting people back into work, defining what they want from localism and articulating their role in the face to face delivery of Universal Credit.