Council tax support to be protected
Over half a million Scots will be protected from UK Government cuts to council tax benefit.
The UK Government will abolish the existing Council Tax Benefit in April 2013 and cut the successor budget by 10 per cent.
The Scottish Government and COSLA have now agreed to cover the £40 million cost of the cuts in 2013-14 - the Scottish Government will provide £23 million and COSLA will provide £17 million.
Local Government Minister Derek Mackay said:
“558,000 people in Scotland on the lowest incomes currently receive council tax benefit, including the unemployed, pensioners, those who cannot work because of disability, carers and people who receive tax credits. We will not allow them to be victims of UK cuts - we will work to protect them.
“Working closely together, the Scottish Government and councils will now cover the £40 million cost of the council tax benefit cut in 2013-14 to protect vulnerable individuals, a unique approach across Great Britain.
“In the coming months we will establish a national schedule of reductions to council tax, so that anyone currently receiving council tax benefit will not have to pay more council tax in the next financial year.
“The Scottish Government is looking after household budgets, with a council tax freeze, free prescriptions, concessionary travel, and our abolition of road tolls and tuition fees. It is right that we take action to protect the thousands of pensioners and families who would have been affected. Only through this decisive action by the Scottish Government and COSLA can vulnerable people in Scottish society be protected.
“We have challenged the UK Government on their cuts to Scotland and their attack on the least well off. We will put in place measures that reflect the compassion and fairness of Scotland in line with our council tax freeze.”
COSLA President Councillor Pat Watters said: “Scottish local government has a long and proud history of standing up for and protecting the most vulnerable in society.
“In taking this decisive action to cover the cost of council tax benefit, together with the Scottish Government, we will once again be protecting the most vulnerable in society. Can I be clear that we are talking here about the real victims of this particular cut and that is why Scottish local government firmly believes it is the right and proper thing to do and why we are willing to put in our share of the £40 million needed to protect them from the reality of such a harsh cut.”
David Manion, Chief Executive of Age Scotland, said:
“It is reassuring to see the Scottish Government and COSLA working together to ameliorate some of the pain that older, vulnerable people will feel and Age Scotland welcomes the decision to allocate £40 million to help them with their council tax bills. Council tax benefit is a hugely important benefit for older people on low incomes and we are delighted that following the move to devolve responsibility for this entitlement to Scotland, the Scottish Government and COSLA are ensuring that it is retained.
“Westminster’s 10 per cent reduction in funds would lead to a significant drop in support and additional financial pressures for some people who are already struggling on low incomes and we are confident that older people below pension age who are on low wages, or are unemployed and have long-term health problems will greatly benefit from this additional support.”
558,000 people receive Council Tax Benefit (CTB) in Scotland, which is worth £387 million to Scotland.
Eligibility is based on a number of factors, including income, savings, receipt of other benefits and financial status of partners. More information.
Certain people are automatically considered for council tax benefit if they receive other benefits though a system of ‘passported benefits’, such as income support, Pension credits or Job Seeker’s Allowance.
CTB is administered by local authorities on behalf of the Department of Work & Pensions (DWP), who meet the costs of benefits and the administration of the system. Council Tax Benefit is paid to Local Authorities, not to individuals. Individuals in receipt of CTB receive a Council Tax bill net of the benefit paid by DWP. Councils handle applications, calculations and any initial appeals against awards and provide the public face of support to applicants.
The UK Government’s Welfare Reform Act will abolish CTB from April 2013 and the UK Government will then ‘localise’ support for Council Tax to individual Councils in England. Reduced funding - current CTB levels minus 10 per cent - will pass to the Scottish Government which will be responsible for assisting individuals to meet their Council Tax liabilities from April 2013.