How have councils changed the support available?
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.
In the first year of CTS the funding available from central government was 10% less than that available under the former system of CTB (which central government funded in full). This central government funding for CTS has now been combined with the general grant that local authorities receive and is subject to the same cuts.
Each year the local authority decides how CTS should work in their area. Now in its sixth year, 264 (of 326) councils require everyone to pay at least some council tax regardless of income. This is the same number of local authorities as last year but one has removed their minimum payment whilst another has introduced one for the first time.
Changes over the past six years
From April 2018, only 36 councils (out of 326) are continuing to provide the levels of support available under the former Council Tax Benefit system, down from 58 in April 2013.
The most common change that local authorities have made from the former CTB system has been to introduce a “minimum payment” which requires everyone to pay at least some council tax regardless of income. From April 2018, 264 schemes include a minimum payment, the same number as in April 2017 but up from 229 in April 2013.
Along with a minimum payment, councils can make other changes to CTS. The graph below shows the number of councils that have introduced a particular change. Some local authorities introduced more than one new measure (for example reducing the second adult rebate and introducing a band cap), so councils may be counted more than once.
- 217 councils have reduced or removed the second adult rebate (the benefit homeowners not on a low income are entitled to if they share their home with someone on a low income), 3 more than the previous year, April 2016, and 40 more than April 2013.
- 110 councils have introduced a band cap which involves limiting the amount of benefit received in higher value properties to the amount provided to those in lower value properties, 10 more than the previous year and 41 than in April 2013. The most common band cap applied is D.
- 104 councils have lowered the maximum savings limit (the savings limit over which one is no longer eligible for Council Tax Benefit), six more than the previous year and 41 more than in April 2013. Most reduced the threshold to £6,000.
- 70 councils have introduced a minimum CTS entitlement, 13 more than in April 2013. A minimum CTS entitlement of £5 per week would mean that claimants entitled to less than this would receive nothing.
- 27 councils increased the income taper (the amount by which support is withdrawn as income increases) from the CTB rate of 20p per £1. There are now around five councils who use income bands instead of income tapers.
The range of minimum payments
The most common change that local authorities made from the former CTB system was to introduce a “minimum payment” which requires everyone to pay at least some council tax regardless of income.
From April 2014, 245 schemes included a minimum payment, 16 more than in April 2013. In April 2015, this number increased to 250, in April 2016 it reached 259, in April 2017 it reached 264 and in April 2018 it remained the same as last year.
A minimum payment can be administered in a range of ways. Most local authorities with a minimum payment require all residents to pay a proportion of their council tax, and they are only entitled to council tax support for the remaining share. For example, a resident must pay 20% of their council tax liability but can apply for Council Tax Support to help pay for the remaining 80%.
The size of this minimum payment varies by area; in 45 councils it is less than 10% of council tax liability and 136 councils it is 20% or more but less than 30%. For 23 councils it is 30% or more.
The graph below shows the number of councils by the level of minimum payment:
- There has been a large and steady drop in the number of councils with smaller minimum payments levels (of 10% or less); from 113 in April 2013 to 45 in April 2018.
- The number of councils with a minimum payment of between 10% and 20% has remained the same at 60 in April 2018 compared with the previous year, but up from 23 in April 2013.
- 20% to 30% is the most common minimum payment, with 136 councils choosing this level in April 2018, up from 86 in April 2013.
- The number of councils with a minimum payment of 30% or more has gone up to 23. This is up from 19 the previous year, and 8 in April 2013.
View the 2018/19 scheme information on a map
Minimum payment for each local authority in England in 2018/19
Minimum payment in each local authority in London in 2018/19