Council tax support and housing benefit
If you're on a low income you could be entitled to housing benefit and council tax support.
- Housing benefit helps people on low incomes pay their rent - it's not available for mortgage repayments
- Council tax support helps people on low incomes pay their council tax
Please note that if you claim universal credit your housing costs will be assessed separately by the DWP. You won't be able to receive housing benefit.
You'll still need to claim council tax support if you need help to meet the cost of your council tax.
Council tax reduction scheme
Each year every council is required to evaluate their council tax reduction scheme to consider whether any changes are required. We decided to amend our scheme due to the challenging financial future we're facing, and wrote to all customers advising of the proposed changes in October 2017. These changes were agreed by full council in December 2017 and implemented on 1 April 2018.
Why do I now need to pay some council tax?
Changes were made to the council tax support scheme from April 2018, including:
1/ The scheme was amended to fall in line with changes made to housing benefit, thus making it easier for staff to administer and customers to understand. These changes include:
- A two-child limit
- Loss of the family premium
- Minimum earnings threshold for EEA
- Special education needs allowance to be disregarded in full
- War pensions/Armed Forces Compensation Scheme guaranteed income payments to be disregarded in full
- Changes to the habitual residency test to fall in line with housing benefit
- Bereavement support payments to be disregarded in full
- Any payments from the ‘We love Manchester Fund’ and the ‘London Emergency Trust’ to be disregarded in full
- Maximum backdate period of one month
- Absence from home limited to four weeks when outside the UK
- Limit of one month to report changes in circumstances
2/ A minimum award of £1.50 per week.
3/ Customers in receipt of universal credit will only have their entitlement reassessed if their award of universal credit increases or decreases by more than £10 per week.
4/ However, the main change was that the maximum entitlement was restricted to 80% of your council tax bill. This means that everyone is being asked to pay 20% of their annual council tax charge. This change doesn't affect you if you're in receipt of the severe disability premium, the support component of employment support allowance or a war pension.
Why were these changes made?
In 2013 council tax benefit was abolished and replaced with a scheme which was to be written and administered locally by each individual council. The government immediately cut the funding for this by 10%.
Since this time, we've been faced with further cuts in funding as a council and so unfortunately, we're facing increased financial pressures. These changes were introduced as a way for us to save money while not having to cut essential services.
The government has made it clear that councils should look to maximise locally generated income to help manage the situation, and to support the continued delivery of key and critical services now and in the future.
What do I do if I can't afford to pay?
If you're unable to meet the payments in the first instance you should contact us to see if there are any other means of assistance which can be given, for example if you receive housing benefit but still have a shortfall you could be eligible for a payment from the Discretionary Housing Fund. This could assist you in meeting that payment and allow you to have more income available to pay your council tax instalments.
Our council tax team could also assist you by:
- Offering twelve monthly instalments rather than ten
- Checking that you're receiving all income streams you're entitled to
- Ensuring you've been awarded all/any discounts relevant to your circumstances
- Helping you complete an income and expenditure form to look at options for where you could cut expenses elsewhere
- Signpost you to professional and charitable services who can assist with debt and budgeting advice
- Explore further financial assistance that may be available
Council Tax Hardship Fund
In order to assist with the effects of Covid-19, the government has pledged £500m in new grant funding for billing authorities to provide additional council tax relief for economically vulnerable households in their area.
Therefore, all working age customers who receive council tax support in the period 1 April 2020 to 31 March 2021 will receive an additional award of £150 onto their council tax account (or if the outstanding liability after discounts and exemptions is less, then the award will be the sum which results in making the remaining balance nil).
Assistance provided from the Hardship Fund won't be considered a payment of income, and therefore will not affect recipients’ eligibility for other benefits.
If you're eligible for this award, you don't need to apply for it. We'll automatically award your entitlement and you'll receive a new bill showing your award.
If you wish to contact us about benefits or council tax please call 0345 6789002.
Alternatively you can email us: