The Cabinet was provided with an update on Solihull Council’s Council Tax Reduction (CTR) Scheme from April 2023.
Members were reminded that each year Full Council had to approve the Council’s CTR scheme and that from April 2017 the Council decided that all working age residents who were liable for council tax should pay a minimum of 15% towards their council tax irrespective of income. Pensioners were protected from any changes to local schemes and were not affected by this change.
Officers advised Members that no changes were being proposed or revisions to the Council’s CTR scheme for April 2023, and the reasons for this included: -
a) The support for customers was based on each individual’s ability to pay and this means tested approach was fair and equitable;
(b) Pensioners continued to be protected under the original scheme rules;
(c) Collection rates for CTR customers had been achieved in 2017/18, 2018/19 and 2019/20 and 2021/22. (The collection rate for 2020/21 was less than the pre-Covid collection target and was as a result of the Council’s decision to not undertake any recovery action from March 2020 to July 2020); and
(d) The Council provided a variety of support mechanisms as detailed in section 3 of the report. These support mechanisms were available for any CTR claimant who was suffering financial hardship as a result of their council tax liability. The support mechanisms were in place to offer longer term solutions to help claimants with money management.
The report also detailed caseload, collection rates and support mechanisms.
On receiving the report there was some debate regarding the scheme. Some Members acknowledged that the Council’s scheme was better than others but questioned with the cost-of-living crisis and the impact this would have on residents was this the best approach to take. Financial hardship also had a mental health cost, and this should not be overlooked.
It was acknowledged that challenging times lay ahead. It was also important not to overlook the work done by the Financial Inclusion Team, which offered much wider support than just help with the council tax. The scheme helped identify people in need of wider support. Changing the scheme would come at a cost, but not necessarily improve things.
That Full Council be recommended to approve the Council’s Council Tax Reduction Scheme for 2023/24