There has been an increase of 500% in claims of the council tax reduction (CRT) scheme according to Cllr Dudd, speaking at the Cabinet meeting on 28 April 2020.
Two weeks previous to that Bristol247 wrote: “Since mid-March, the applications for reduced payments have gone from an average of around 100 a week to 642 in the past week.”
Might the council be looking to reduce it again, however?
CTR is on the agenda for the Overview of Scrutiny and Management Board meeting on 8 July but there is no information as to why. The report won’t be published until 6 July, however. Papers to scrutiny should be made available a week before the meeting but that is not happening. They are being published on 6 July only because the matter is due to go to Cabinet the following week.
The council tried to reduce the council tax reduction scheme in 2017 for the year 2018/19. After much campaigning by opposition groups and Acorn, the idea was abandoned.
While noting that the consultation itself states: “Councils are required to review their CTR schemes annually and consult on any proposed changes to them.” The council had initially decided to not retain the option as it had been.
“Options were taken to Executive Board for approval and it was decided that the council would not be consulting on the current scheme as an option due to the council’s current financial position.”
At the time, ITV West reported that: “The Mayor of Bristol says changes must be considered but the most vulnerable people will still be protected.
‘We are facing some of the most difficult decisions on how we fund public services in Bristol’s history. All the options presented recommend continuing to support those in severe financial need and take into account the need for a discretionary fund and some protections for those worst off’. [ITV]
We don’t yet know what will come to OSMB on 8 July but the three options suggested initially for the CTR are listed in the following consultation document.
- Make a 25% payment mandatory for those on CTR
- Make a 7.5% payment mandatory for those receiving CTR
- Develop a banded scheme with various options ranging from payment of 25% to 75%.
The deadline for any public questions to OSMB were due 2 July so it is not possible to ask about it. I have lodged a formal complaint about the lack of reports and timely information.