Westminster City Council has approved a set of decisions regarding council tax discounts that promote fairness and support the most vulnerable across the city. The council’s cabinet agreed on 4 December to the following initiatives, part of the Council Tax Discounts (including Council Tax Local Reduction Scheme) and Council Tax Base report, that will come in to effect from 1 April 2018:
In a new policy that was brought forward by the Leader, Cllr Nickie Aiken, the Cabinet Member for Children’s Services recently approved the granting of a 100% Council Tax discount for Westminster Care Leavers for a period of 3 years. The council remains the “corporate parent” even when young people leave care at the age of eighteen and this policy is designed to provide further practical support, together with a wide range of other wrap around services, to help them as they start out in adult life.
The Local Government Finance Act 2012 allows local authorities, including Westminster, to set a Long-Term Empty Property Premium for properties that have been empty for at least 2 years. The national premium is currently set at up to 50% of the normal Council Tax, which means that the overall charge is 150% of the standard Council Tax for the relevant Council Tax band, which may increase in the future in line with national policy. There are currently 138 empty properties in the city that have currently been empty for more than 2 years.
The cabinet has agreed that there should be no council tax discount for those who have second homes in the city, a policy that was first introduced in 2013/14.
Westminster City Council’s Tax Reduction scheme mirrors the previous national Council Tax Benefit scheme, i.e. the council has not sought to reduce the financial assistance provided to residents (as has been the case at the majority of other local authorities). The council has also taken the decision to not take in to account War Disabled Pensions, War Widow, Pensions and Armed Forces Compensation scheme payments when calculating a claimant’s income in order to maximise the financial assistance we provide.
Cllr Tim Mitchell, Cabinet Member for Finance, Property and Corporate Services, said: “Despite the significant savings that the council has realised over recent years, through our relentless focus on providing value for money, we have the lowest Band D council tax in the country whilst always seeking to deliver excellent services. But we are also absolutely committed to introducing policies and initiatives that promote fairness across the city with support for the most vulnerable, which our innovate local council tax discounts scheme should really help to deliver.”
Cllr Richard Holloway, Cabinet Member for Children’s Services, said: “We have a duty to support our young people that leave care and we already do a huge amount to provide ongoing practical and emotional help so they can have the best chance to make a success of their lives. I am delighted and very proud that we can offer some additional assistance by agreeing that Westminster care leavers won’t pay any council tax for three years as they start out on their journey towards an independent and happy life.”