How has CTS affected claimants across England?
From April 2013, local authorities across England were given the power to devise their own systems of Council Tax Support (CTS) for working-age adults. It replaced the national system of the Council Tax Benefit (CTB) which ensured that the poorest households did not have to pay council tax.
Each year the local authority decides how CTS should work in their area. Now in its fourth year, 2.2 million low income families will pay on average £169 more in council tax in 2016/17 than they would have if CTB were still in place, up from £167 in 2015/16, £160 in 2014/15 and £145 in 2013/14.
While the average amount of additional council tax paid has only increased by £2 on average between 2015/16 and 2016/17, the graph below shows that 340,000 working-age claimants are in areas where the minimum payment required increased in April 2016 or has been introduced for the first time. In these areas, the increase for many claimants will be much more than £2.
Among the 340,000 families affected by upward movements in the minimum payment, 70,000 lived in areas where a minimum payment was introduced for the first time in April 2016. These claimants will pay on average £171 additional council tax compared to the previous year. The remaining 270,000 lived in areas where an existing minimum payment was increased by the council.
The graph shows that the total number of working-age CTS claimants has fallen since 2013/14. This is largely due to rising employment but some claimants will no longer be entitled to CTS due to a change in their to local scheme rather than a change in their circumstances.
The table shows the number of claimants affected in each region and the average hit in each case, relative to what they would have received if CTB were still in place. Regional variation is explained both by changing schemes and by variations in the number of properties in each band and variation in level of council tax across local authorities. So while the variation in the average hit cannot be explained by schemes alone, it nevertheless shows that someone receiving jobseekers allowance in some areas would have to pay more council tax than in others. The table shows:
- The average cut in support is greatest in Outer London at £205 and least in the North East at £135.
- The average hit has increased the most since the first year of CTS in the South East and Outer London.
- The number of claimants affected has increased in the West Midlands and South East since April 2013 but fallen in every other region.
Range of hit
The average cut in support of £169 in 2016/17 hides a lot of variation. The graph below shows the number of CTS claimants by the additional council tax paid each year compared to CTB.
- The most common financial impact of CTS changes on claimants in 2013/14 (indicated by the tallest bar on the graph) was an additional£50 to £100 per year to pay in council tax than they would have under CTB; in 2016/17 this will be £150 to £200.
- Each year the number of claimants paying smaller amounts in additional council tax has fallen and the number paying larger amounts has risen.
- 2016/17 was the first year that the number of claimants paying £150 to £200 fell; this was countered by an increase in claimants paying at least £200, which has reached 690,000.
Council Tax Arrears
Council tax arrears arise when a resident falls behind with their council tax payments. The way that councils pursue missed payments varies from place to place. The standard procedure is for the council to send two reminders about unpaid council tax before embarking on further collection and enforcement strategies. This may include asking for the entire year’s liability to be paid in one instalment, making an application to the magistrate’s court for a liability order, an attachment of earning or benefits (where the council collects council tax from the household’s income or benefits that the council itself administers). They may proceed with enforcement measures, such as debt collection by bailiffs.
The graph above shows the change in council tax arrears between 2012/13, the last year of CTB, and 2014/15, the second year of CTS. It shows arrears in respect of council tax liability for the year in question. The bars are grouped according to the scheme in place in each council in 2014/15, by whether they changed the scheme from CTB, whether they introduced a minimum payment, and the size of the minimum payment if one had been introduced. The change in arrears shown controls for change in the amount of council tax that was collectable over this period.
It shows that, although arrears include residents who are not in receipt of CTS, those councils with a larger increase in minimum payment saw a bigger increase in arrears.Among the 45 councils that retained CTB, arrears fell in relative terms by 7%.Among other councils, the increase was smallest across the 36 local authorities that did not introduce a minimum payment, at 2%. For the 69 councils with a minimum payment of 20%,arrears were 23% higher. In the 47 councils with a minimum payment of over 20%, arrears rose 44%.
View impacts on a map
Download the full breakdown of the impacts
The data in the spreadsheets below provides a local level breakdown of the monetary impacts of the CTS scheme in 2013/14, 2014/15 and 2015/16.
*The estimate of working age adults likely to be affected does not account for vulnerable groups councils may intend to protect. The figures relating to the introduction of ‘new schemes’ detail the impact of councils that plan to introduce schemes that include only the following measures: a minimum council tax payment and a band cap. It does not refer to other changes such as a reduction or removal of the second adult rebate, a minimum council tax support payment by the council, a change to the rate at which income is tapered or to the savings limit.