Council Tax - Discretionary Reductions Policy

Introduction

The following policy outlines the Council’s approach to granting discretionary reductions in liability for Council Tax under S13A (1) (c) of the Local Government Finance Act 1992 (as amended) . The Council has the ability to reduce the liability for Council Tax in relation to individual cases or classes that it may determine where national discounts and exemptions cannot be applied.

This policy is divided into two areas.

The Flood Recovery Framework this part covers situations outlined by the Government where any parts of the Councils area are designated as flood areas

Granting of reductions in Council Tax liability in all other circumstances where an application is made to the Council for a reduction in Council Tax liability under S13A (c) of the Local Government Finance Act 1992

Legislation

S13A (1) (c) of the Local Government Finance Act 1992 as amended states that


Reductions by billing authority

  1. The amount of council tax which as person is liable to pay in respect of any chargeable dwelling and any day (as determined in accordance with sections 10 to q13);
  1. In the case of a dwelling situated in the area of a billing authority in England, is to be reduced to the extent, if any, required by the authority’s council tax reduction scheme;
  2. Not applicable
  3. In any case, may be reduced to such extent (or, if the amount has been reduced under paragraph (a) or (b), such further extent) as the billing authority for the area in which the dwelling is situated thinks fit.
  1. The provisions stated in (c) above, allows the Council to reduce the Council Tax liability for any taxpayer in addition to any application for Council Tax reduction under the Councils scheme. This is a general power that has always been available to the Council.

Finance

Any amounts granted under S13A (1) (c) are normally financed through the Council’s general fund and do not form part of the collection fund. In certain circumstances Central Government provides funding directly to the Council to compensate for specific events and in the case of severe flooding. Where this is available, the Council will look to use all the funding available.


Any additional assistance, outside the funding, would fall to be paid by the Council itself.

The Flood Recovery Framework

In a severe weather event with significant wide area impacts, local authorities may need central support to help their communities and businesses return to noprmal. Building on these principals, a core package of business and community recovery support has been developed by Central Government to serve as a framework for flood recovery funding when needed.


It will before Government Ministers to determine when this support will be made available. Weather incidents with localised impacts will not normally trigger a recovery support package.

Who is eligible for a discount?

Where the Council Tax Discount Scheme is activated following severe weather, MHCLG will refund eligible local authorities for granting discounts in the following circumstances:

  1. 100% discount for a minimum of three months, or while anyone is unable to return home if longer, for primary residences whereas a result of relevant weather event:
  • Flood water entered into the habitable areas; or,
  • Flood water did not enter into the habitable areas, but the local authority regards that the residence was otherwise considered unliveable for any period of time
  1. 100% discount on temporary accommodation for anyone unable to return to their home, in parallel with the discount on their primary residence where applicable.

Second homes and empty homes will not be eligible.

Instances where households might be considered unliveable could include

  • Where access to the property is severely restricted, for example upper floor flats
  • Key services such as sewerage, drainage and electricity are severely affected
  • The adverse weather has resulted in other significant damage to the property that it would be, or would have been, advisable for the residents to vacate the premises for any period of time, regardless of whether they did vacate or not
  • Flooded gardens or garages will not normally render a household eligible but there may be exceptions where it could be demonstrated that such instances mean effectively that the property is unliveable

It will be for the Council to determine eligibility under the scheme

 

Properties affected by multiple instances of flooding

Residences impacted in multiple flood events will not be precluded from repeat support where this is made available by Government in respect of separate weather events.

Where the scheme is activated for two separate instances of flooding within three months of each other, the two discount periods will run concurrently.

Funding

In such cases, Central Government will make payment to the Council via a Section 31 grant

The Councils policy in respect of the Flood Recovery Framework

The Council shall operate the scheme strictly in accordance with Central Government guidelines

 

Applications for S13A (1) (c) in other cases

Where the Council receives and application for a reduction in liability in any other all applications will be treated on their individual merits.


In such cases the Council will require the applicant (where appropriate) to :

  • Make a formal application for a Council Tax Reduction
  • Consider potential changes to payment methods and payment arrangements
  • Assist the Council to minimise liability by ensuring that all discounts, exemptions and reductions are properly granted
  • Maximise their income through application for welfare benefits
  • Have taken all reasonable steps to resolve their situation prior to application
  • Provide evidence of financial hardship or exceptional personal circumstance that would merit a reduction in Council Tax liability; and
  • Not have any assets, capital or other financial remedy that could be used to meet the Council Tax liability

Non-essential outgoings such as cigarettes, alcohol, subscription Tv etc and non priority payments for such as catalogues will not be taken into account when determining their application

The circumstances affecting the ability to meet the Council Tax liability must not be intentional by the applicant and must be deemed to be out of the applicants control.

Delegated Powers

This S13A (1) (c) policy has been approved by the Council. However the Strategic Director, Corporate Resources is authorised to make some technical scheme amendments to ensure it meets the criteria set out by the Council an, for certain defined schemes, Central Government guidance.

 

Notification

The Council will issue a written decision letter to the applicant within one month of the request or as soon as practical thereafter. Theis will include

  • The level of the award, if relevant
  • Full reasons for the decision
  • How it will be paid, if relevant and
  • Information about how to request a review of the decision

Review of Decisions

Notwithstanding any reductions applied automatically to the Council Tax account, where any application is refused, the applicant will be notified that they can ask for the decision to be  reviewed. Any request for a review must be made in writing within one month of the decision letter.
The review will be undertaken by the Head of Customer Services and shall respond within two months, and will have regard to any additional evidence supplied.

If the applicant is dissatisfied wit the outcome of the review, they can, within two months of the reply, appeal to the Valuation Tribunal Service t9o consider their case.

Duration of reduction

The duration of award will depend on the circumstances of the case. However, the following principles will apply:


Where the reduction is applied under a Central Government Scheme, the reduction shall be applied to the Council Tax account for the period specified in Government guidance

  1. In all other cases the application for reduction can only relate to the current council tax financial year in which the application is made unless the delay was due to exceptional circumstance and if the application is successful, the award period will be specific to the applicants circumstances, but it cannot exceed a period greater than the financial year it has been awarded in or exceed the total Council Tax charge of that period.

Changes in circumstances and misrepresentation

A reduction in liability under S13A (1) (c) can be recovered if it has been made because of misrepresentation or failure to disclose a material fact, either fraudulently or otherwise. It can also be recovered because of the subsequent application of a national discount or adjustment in the banding by the Valuation office Agency.


Changes in circumstances that subsequently negate the need for a reduction in liability under this policy will be recovered by the Council and the taxpayer will be notified accordingly.

Reductions in liability are not transferable following a change of address.

The council reserves the right to recover any reductions in liability as a result of a change in legislation or regulation.

The council is mindful that is it important to protect public funds and, as such, will take action to prosecute any case where the applicant acts fraudulently in applying for a reduction in Council Tax liability