SUPPORT: £150 to be awarded to struggling working families
Sandwell Council, Image: LDRS
Up to £150 will be awarded to 8,000 families across Sandwell.
Sandwell council predicts this will cost £840,000 as the Local Council Tax Support Grant (2021/22) aims to provide financial support to Sandwell residents who are struggling to pay their council tax.
According to a Cabinet meeting, held last Wednesday, £500,000 of this grant still remains unspent from last year, following on from funding being issued by central government.
Cllr Luke Giles, who opened the debate, and who is chair of the budget and corporate scrutiny board, said: “Sandwell’s local council tax reduction scheme is one of only a few schemes nationally that still provides 100% support to low income households.
“This report recommends that we use the local council tax support grant funding in a very similar way to how we used it last year.
“This will ensure we provide additional support to our lowest income households. Families who receive school meals, and people affected by the pandemic who are struggling to pay their council tax.
He added: “Any funds remaining at the end of the financial year will then be used towards the cost of our council tax reduction scheme.
Sandwell council was granted £3,586,869 as part of the £670 million Local Council Tax Support Schemes grant issued by central government in May of this year.
Cllr Jay Anandou, Cons, Old Warley, and who is a member of the budget and corporate scrutiny board tweeted: “As per sandwell cabinet report, the council boasts their LCTRS is one of the few schemes nationally that provides 100% support to the lowest income households, however 500k was unspent from last year when it could have been used to reduce council tax to many struggling families
“In light of reports that several struggling families were said they are not eligible when 500k was sitting on the pot nothing but baffling.”
The grant has been provided to authorities in recognition of the anticipated additional cost of providing council tax support at a time when more households are likely to be facing financial difficulties as a result of the pandemic. The grant is for local authorities to keep, and the funding is unringfenced.
Council tax collection is set to become a highly contested issue in Sandwell.
In the region, 58,100 people are currently furloughed, due to end in September.
When furlough is due to end, up to 15% of people furloughed could lose their job – approximately 8,700 people being unemployed, according to HMRC estimates.
The report also recommended the Local Council Tax Support Grant funds the cost of the Local Council Tax Reduction Scheme (LCTRS). The current cost of the scheme is £30.9m.
A spokesperson for Sandwell council said: “The £500,000 remainder of the £4.5m Sandwell Council received for 2020/21 is currently supporting households who are struggling to pay their Council Tax for the financial year 2020/21. The council has now received approval to spend the £3.5m allocated for 2021/22 and these payments will commence during the week commencing 6 September.
“The council has a Council Tax Reduction Scheme policy which is reviewed each year and approved by full council.
“Council Tax reduction is awarded in accordance with the policy and if anyone does not agree with their Council Tax reduction decision they have the right of appeal.
” For any resident who is suffering financial hardship to pay their Council Tax and requires free advice on maximising their income, managing debt and how to deal with creditors, they can obtain financial and budgeting advice. Details can be found on https://www.sandwell.gov.uk/info/200207/council_tax/3604/financial_hardship“
All councillors voted in favour unanimously for the approval of the budget monitoring report at the budget and corporate scrutiny board. No objections were raised.
Words: Rhi Storer, Local Democracy Reporter
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