Currently there are approximately 36,193 council tax properties in the East Cambridgeshire area and approximately 2423 people of working age receive Council Tax Benefit Approximately ½ of those have income from employment.
Please note that the figures provided in this document are approximate as the number of properties for which council tax is due, and the number of claimants change daily.
There are two major changes that affect the amount of Council Tax that customers have to pay.
Council Tax Benefit is being replaced by a Local Council Tax Support Scheme
1) Council Tax Benefit is being replaced by a Local Council Tax Support Scheme. This new scheme is sometimes referred to as the, ‘Council Tax Reduction Scheme’.
2) The current council tax scheme is funded by central government and is ’demand led’. The new scheme is to be funded by the council, with a government grant 10% below what has previously been granted.
3) Those of pensionable age will not be affected by the scheme and will be entitled to a maximum of 100% of their Council Tax liability.
4) Those of working age will be entitled to help up to a maximum of 91.5% of their Council Tax Liability, for the coming financial year. In other words they will have to pay at least 8.5% of their 2013/14 Council Tax liability.
5) Those who receive a war pension will not be affected by the scheme, even if they are of working age. (there is currently only 1 war pensioner of working age in the East Cambridgeshire area)
6) All those in receipt of, or who have made a claim for, Council Tax Benefit at the 31st April will be treated as having made a claim for the new support scheme and need not do anything.
7) If someone claims help with their Council Tax on the 1st April onwards then a claim will need to be made. However our Housing Benefit claim forms will be used to claim both Council Tax support and Housing Benefit, and will ask if someone also wants to claim Council Tax Support – and if this is the case the form will be used for both Housing Benefit and/or Council Tax Support.
8) Second Adult Rebate (2AR), (some times called alternative Maximum Benefit) will no longer be available to those of working age. (2AR is awarded to the person who is liable to pay Council Tax, who would qualify for a single person discount but for the fact that someone else lives in their home and that other person has a low income.) We do not want someone to lose a 25% discount because they have others living in their home who cannot contribute to the cost of their Council Tax. However 2AR is given irrespective of how wealthy the claimant is. This is a complicated calculation, with a low income – only 29 people in East Cambridgeshire District Council’s area, receive this help. If the customer is on a low income they may claim support through the new council tax support scheme.
9) We are aware that there are a number of customers who have not had to pay towards their council tax. With this in mind, letters will be sent to all those currently in receipt of council tax benefit who will be affected by these changes. These letters will be going out over the week beginning the 11th February. We are unable to tell people what to pay as the council tax has not yet been set. However we are able to tell people they will be affected and to look at their council tax bill which will be arriving in Mid March.
10) Sample letters are attached to this document so that you are aware of what customers will be receiving.
Changes to Council Tax Exemptions.
The government has changed legislation and from 1st April 2013 the council may make limited changes to some exemptions and discounts.
East Cambridgeshire wants to encourage a buoyant housing market that allows people to move and encourages those who own long term empty properties to consider opening the property up to the housing market.
11) From 1st April 2013 legislation is changing to allow changes to 2 classes of exemptions. Currently, where a property is empty and
a. in need of substantial repair, the council tax payer has nothing to pay for 12 months, (this is known as a class A exemption).
i. From April a 10% percent discount will be applied for a maximum of 12 months.
ii. there are approximately 22 properties receiving this exemption.
b. unfurnished no Council Tax is due for 6 months. (This is known as a Class C exemption).
i. From April a 1 month exemption will be applied for a maximum of 6 months.
ii. There are approximately 355 Class C exemptions
12) Currently, the Council Tax bill for a furnished dwelling that is no-one’s main home is reduced by 10%. These properties are often referred to as 2nd homes. They may be ‘holiday homes’ serving service personnel’s homes or a furnished property to let.
a. From April 2013 East Cambridgeshire District Council will be charging 100% on all such properties.
b. There are currently 145 of these second properties in the area.
13) From April if a property has been empty for 2 years the council is able to charge a ‘premium’ of up to 50% on top of the normal council tax dues.
a. East Cambridgeshire District Council will charge150% Council tax on these ‘long term empty’ properties. This decision was made to encourage properties back into the housing market as family homes.
14) We are aware that there are a number of customers who may be affected by these technical changes, they may, for example, have been granted an exemption for a period that would end after March 2013. With this in mind, letters will be sent to all those currently in receipt of an exemption who will be affected by these changes. These letters started to be sent in the last week of January – staggered to help reduce any peak of activity for phones and counter. Unfortunately, we are unable to tell people what to pay as the council tax for the coming year has not yet been set. However we are able to tell people they will be affected and to look at their council tax bill which will be arriving in Mid March.
There are other changes due to welfare reform that you may have heard of. These include the introduction of Universal Credit, a maximum ‘cap’ above which benefit cannot be paid and a reduction in the amount of benefit paid to those living in a social landlord property that is larger than needed.
In brief Universal Credit will not affect any one in our area until October 2013. It is currently planned that only claimants who have not been in receipt of benefit previously, and have no partner or dependants, will be able to claim. The impact will be very minimal for those in our area.
The Maximum benefit ‘cap’ has been postponed in this area for at least 6 months, and is being introduced in 4 London boroughs only, from April.
The room restriction for those over accommodated and living in social landlord property will be introduced in April 2013. The major social landlords in our area have provided details of the number of bedrooms their properties have and this is being entered onto our computer systems. Letters will be sent to those affected asking them to contact their landlord. A draft of the letter is included with this document. It is understood that social landlords may be able to offer access to smaller properties, to lodgers or to other landlords. Housing teams are working closely with the landlords to help those affected.