New council tax reduction scheme could boost 3,000 hard-up East Devon households

Low-income families in East Devon could benefit from an estimated £270,000 in extra support towards paying their council tax.

Residents are now being asked to have a say on the new scheme that could boost 3,000 households hit by welfare reforms.

A public consultation was launched on Thursday (September 12).

East Devon District Council’s (EDDC) draft Council Tax Reduction Scheme proposes increasing the amount of support for low-income, working age households.

Pensioners will not be affected by the proposals.

Under the current scheme, low-income working age households receive a council tax reduction which involves a lengthy means test with complex legislation.

EDDC says it is looking to ‘significantly simplify’ the reduction scheme by putting more money into the current system and introducing ‘income banded’ discounts.

This means that council tax discounts of 85 per cent, 70 per cent, 50 per cent and 25 per cent could be awarded.

This will depend on a claimant and their partner’s weekly income and the number of dependants living in the household.

Under the proposed draft scheme, 92 per cent of claimants – around 3,000 households – would be better off. Many of these are families adversely affected by recent welfare reforms, says EDDC.

Councillor Ian Thomas, portfolio holder for finance, said: “East Devon is among just a handful of councils nationally which is proposing to increase support for low income-families to help them pay their council tax.”

EDDC says the draft scheme is also more compatible with Universal Credit, which is a means-tested benefit for households on a low income.

Universal Credit full-service, which was introduced in East Devon in July 2018, replaced six benefits including housing benefit, income support and income based jobseeker’s allowance.

The consultation will be sent to key stakeholders including the Citizens Advice Bureau and is open for comment here. 

For paper copies of the consultation – or those in any other format including large print – email or call 01404 515616.

Following the consultation, there will be a detailed review of the draft scheme taking into account the comments received.

The final scheme will be brought back to the district council’s cabinet in January 2020. If agreed by the council, the new scheme will be introduced from April 2020.

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