Local Council Tax Support


What is Local Council Tax Support? 

Local Council Tax Support is a scheme to help people who are unemployed or have a low income to pay their Council Tax. From 1 April 2013, Council Tax Benefit was abolished and each Council had to replace it with their own local scheme. The scheme is reviewed each year by the Council to ensure that we have a scheme suitable for the area, working to a budget that is reducing each year. The reduction in funding means that we have to make some difficult decisions about who gets financial support and how much.

People who have attained the State pension age have been protected and the Government still decides how their entitlement to Local Council Tax Support is calculated.

Local Council Tax Support scheme 2017/18

The Local Council Tax Support scheme for 2017/18 will remain the same as the scheme for 2016/17 except for three minor changes that will align our scheme with other welfare reforms that have been introduced by the Government and that have been applied to Tax Credits, Universal Credit, Pension Credit etc

The first change is to reduce the length of time that a person can be absent from home and outside of Great Britain. This has been changed to 4 weeks and means that if you are absent from Great Britain for more than 4 weeks, you will no longer be entitled to Local Council Tax Support until you return home.

The other two changes relate to new claimants only. If you are currently receiving Local Council Tax Support and do not have a break in your claim, these changes will not apply to you. The changes are:

Within the current calculation of Local Council tax Support, there is an additional premium called the ‘family premium’. This will no longer be included in the calculation for new claims received on or after 1 April 2017.

Within the current calculation of Local Council Tax Support, there is an addition for each dependant child, regardless of the number of children that you have. For all new claims received on or after 1 April 2017, this allowance will be restricted to a maximum number of 2 where children are born on or after 1 April 2017.

Although the Council has made these changes to our scheme for people of working age, the Government has introduced legislation that means that these three changes also apply to the Local Council Tax Support scheme for people of pension age.

Key features of our Local Council Tax Support scheme for people of working age

Every Council has a different Local Council Tax Support scheme. The Epping Forest District Council scheme is based on the old Council Tax Benefit scheme but has the following key differences.

  • The calculation of support is based on 75% of the Council Tax bill, rather than 100%.
  • The calculation is based on a maximum of a band D property. This means that anyone of working age that lives in a property with a higher Council Tax band, will have their support calculated as if their property was a band D.
  • The capital limit is £6,000.
  • There is no Second Adult Rebate scheme
  • Child maintenance is included with a disregard of £15.00 per week.
  • The minimum award is £0.50 per week.
  • Maximum period of 3 months for backdated support
  • A Minimum Income Floor for earnings from self-employment

Problems with paying your Council Tax

If you are having problems with paying your Council Tax, please contact our Council Tax section on 01992 564188 to discuss a suitable payment option for you. If you don’t tell us, you may incur costs which will mean that you will have to pay more.

If you would like some financial advice to budget for an increase in the Council Tax, the Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) offers free, independent advice to help people cope with changes in their finances. You can visit their website at www.citizensadvice.org.uk , telephone the Essex Citizens Advice Line on 0344 477 0808 or call into the local CAB offices in Loughton, Waltham Abbey or Harlow where advisors will be able to help you in organising your finances to deal with paying your Council Tax.

Local council tax support scheme documentation

Discretionary Housing Payments

In special circumstances you may be able to receive a Discretionary Housing payment if you have a shortfall between the amount of Housing benefit paid and your contractual rent.

  • We will look at your financial and personal circumstances before we decide to grant further financial assistance for your council tax.
  • In order to receive a Discretionary Housing Payment, you will have to demonstrate that your circumstances are exceptional. This means there would not be many other people whose circumstances are the same as yours. You will also need to demonstrate that you would be suffering severe financial hardship if you did not receive the extra help.
  • Discretionary Housing Payments are made from a limited amount of money the Council has each financial year, and there is no right to a Discretionary Housing Payment in law.

If you would like to apply for a Discretionary Housing Payment you will need to complete the application form available here

Benefit Cap

There is a limit on the total amount of benefit that most people aged 16 to 64 can get. This is called the benefit cap.

The cap means that the Government will add up how much money you get in total each week from a range of State Benefits. If the total is more than the cap, your Housing Benefit payments will be reduced.

The current benefit cap amounts are:


£20,000 per year (£384.62 per week) for couples and single parents.

£13,400 per year (£257.69 per week) for single people without children.


The benefit cap applies to the amount that you get from the following benefits:

  • bereavement allowance / widowed parent’s / mother’s allowance
  • carer’s allowance
  • child benefit
  • child tax credit
  • employment support allowance (except where the support element has been awarded)
  • guardians allowance
  • housing benefit
  • incapacity benefit
  • income support
  • jobseekers allowance
  • maternity allowance
  • severe disablement allowance
  • widow’s pension. 

Example 

A single person with 4 children.


Weekly income            Child Benefit             £61.80

                                    Child Tax Credits      £184.43

                                    Income Support        £73.10

                              Total income             £319.33

 

Weekly Housing Benefit                               £104.49

 

The weekly income plus the weekly Housing Benefit is £423.82 which is £39.20 above the £384.62 cap. The £39.20 is then deducted from the Housing Benefit so the weekly Housing Benefit would reduce to £65.29.


You will not be affected by the cap if anyone in your household gets any of the following benefits:

  • working tax credit
  • attendance allowance
  • support component of employment support allowance
  • war widow / widower’s pension
  • disability living allowance
  • personal independence payment
  • industrial injuries benefit
  • armed forces compensation scheme payment
  • war pension scheme payments.

For more information about the benefit cap, please visit www.gov.uk/benefit-cap

Backdating Housing Benefit/ Local Council Tax Support

Your Housing Benefit/Local Council Tax Support will usually start either:

• From the Monday after we receive your form
• Or the Monday after you first contacted us asking to make a claim, providing that you return your completed form to us within a month of first contacting us
• Or the Monday following the start date of your entitlement to JSA (IB), ESA(IR), IS or Guaranteed Pension Credit, providing that you send a completed form to us within a month of making that claim
• Or, if you receive JSA(IB), ESA(IR), IS or Guaranteed Pension Credit, the date that you moved into a new property (or the Monday following if you have a weekly rent liability), providing that you send a completed form to us within a month of moving in

If you think you might be entitled, make a claim as soon as possible so you don't lose out.

Sometimes we can pay benefit from an earlier date if there is a continuous good cause (reason) why you did not claim from that date. The maximum we can backdate your Housing Benefit claim is up to 1 month if you are under pension age (or 3 months for backdated Local Council Tax Support). If you are over pension age we can go back up to 3 months.

To allow an award for a backdated period, you must be able to show that you have a continuous ‘good cause’ for failing to make a claim at the correct time. This means that you will have to explain why the Council didn’t receive a form from you and you will also need to demonstrate why you were unable for some reason to complete a form and sent it to the Council. This ‘good cause’ must exist for every day from the date you wish to claim from, up to the date the claim for backdating was actually made.

Each case is considered on its merit. ‘Good cause’ for one claimant may not be considered ‘good cause’ for another. Amongst other things, your health condition (both physical and mental), household emergencies (such as bereavement), language needs, support available to you and any incorrect advice you may have received at the time is all taken into account in making our decision.

Ignorance of the benefit system is not good cause and we cannot award backdated Housing Benefit or Local Council Tax Support just because you did not understand the scheme. It may be a factor in the request but you will also have to have other reasons.

If you want us to consider paying your benefit from an earlier date, tell us when you want benefit paid from and why you did not claim earlier. Please provide any evidence to support your reasons for not making a claim on time. If your health was the reason why you were unable to make a claim, you should provide a health worker or doctor’s letter and/or any evidence of treatment that you were undergoing at that time.

Essential Living Fund

Crisis Loans and Community Care Grants are two parts of the social fund that are no longer available from The Department of Work and Pensions (DWP).

From 2nd April 2013 a scheme called the Essential Living Fund replaced Crisis Loans and Community Care Grants. Essex County Council is responsible for the new scheme. Individual applications are administered by Southend-On-Sea Borough Council for the whole of Essex.

What is the scheme?

The Essential Living Fund may be able to provide you with essential items in an emergency such as:

• Furniture & Furnishings
• White goods
• Household equipment
• Fuel connection or re-Connection charges
• Clothing and footwear
• General Living Expenses

The Essential Living Fund is operated as a grant system and if awarded, it will be paid by goods or vouchers.

To be considered for support you must be:

• Aged 16 or over
• In receipt of state benefits or on a low income
• Permanently live in Essex

How do I apply?

You can make an application online or by phone:

Phone: 0300 790 0124 - this number is Freephone from any number including mobiles. Opening hours: 8.45am to 5.15pm
Online: www.southend.gov.uk/elfforessex

You will be asked questions about your income, earnings and savings. You will also be required to provide proof of your financial situation.

Exceptional Hardship Payments

In special circumstances you may be able to receive a Exceptional Hardship payment if you have a shortfall between the amount of local council tax support paid and your council tax liability.

  • We will look at your financial and personal circumstances before we decide to grant further financial assistance for your council tax.
  • In order to receive a Exceptional Hardship Payment, you will have to demonstrate that your circumstances are exceptional. This means there would not be many other people whose circumstances are the same as yours. You will also need to demonstrate that you would be suffering severe financial hardship if you did not receive the extra help.
  • Exceptional Hardship Payments are made from a limited amount of money the Council has each financial year, and there is no right to a Exceptional Hardship Payment in law.

If you would like to apply for a Exceptional Hardship Payment  you will need to complete the application form available here.

Appeals

Housing Benefit

If you want to appeal against a Housing Benefit decision, you must do so in writing within one month of the date on the decision letter. An appeal must be signed by the claimant and contain the grounds for appeal, ie. you need to tell us what decision you disagree with and the reasons why you disagree with the decision. You should provide any supporting evidence if you have it. If we are unable to change our decision, we will prepare a response to HM Courts & Tribunals Service. A copy of the response will also be sent to you if you are the claimant and your representative if you have one. 

Once you have submitted an appeal, if you want to withdraw it, you will need to do so in writing.

Local Council Tax Support

If you want to appeal against a Local Council Tax Support decision, you must appeal to us in writing and tell us what decision you disagree with and the reasons why you disagree with the decision. We will consider your appeal and if we cannot change the decision and you still disagree, or if we do not respond to you within 2 months, you can appeal directly to the Valuation Tribunal Service. Their website is www.valuationtribunal.gov.uk  


Phone Contact us....


 

Please telephone 01992 564156/564157 and select one of the following options

  1. For a general enquiry
  2. For a specific enquiry about your claim with the Surname A-K
  3. For a specific enquiry about your claim with the Surname L-Z

Email: Benefits

Or you can write to us at:
Benefits Division, Civic Offices, High Street, Epping, Essex, CM16 4BZ

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