More than 2 million poor families now paying council tax

5 Apr 16
Nearly 80% of councils in England require low-income households to pay some of their council tax bill, four years after the support system was localised to town halls, a report has found today.

Research by the New Policy Institute and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation found a total of 2.2 million low-income families, who would have previously received support under the national council tax benefit scheme, now paid on average £169 more.

This includes 340,000 families who will see sharp increases in their council tax from 1 April, according to NPI and JRF.

The number of local authorities that have retained the same level of support before the system was localised in 2013/14 – and funding cut by 10% – had fallen from 58 in the first year to 41 in 2016/17.

A majority of councils – 259 of a total of 326 – now require all working-age residents to pay at least some council tax regardless of their income. Of these, 144 councils now require working-age residents to pay at least 20%, up from 94 in April 2013, while a total of 11 authorities now have a minimum payment of at least 30%.

Theo Barry-Born, a researcher at the NPI said low-income families are losing support based on where they live, not what they need.

“These tax increases for the poorest look set to continue in future years as councils seek to manage further falls in central government funding,” he added.

Responding to the report, Claire Kober, the Local Government Association’s resources portfolio holder, said that the report showed the shortfall between the money councils receive to fund council tax support and the money we would need to protect those on low incomes is getting bigger.

“No one wants to ask those on the lowest incomes to pay more,” she stated.

“But faced with significant cuts to the money we receive to look after the elderly, protect children, repair the roads and collect the bins, many councils have had little choice but to reduce the discount.

“Councils know how tough things are, and are doing their best to protect those affected the most, whether through introducing hardships funds or changing the way we collect unpaid tax. But these measures can only go so far in alleviating the burden.”

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