At tonight’s budget meeting of Norwich City Council, Labour councillors will recommend the council maintains its Council Tax Reduction Scheme: offering a 100% discount on council tax to those most in need. Norwich has one of the most extensive council tax reduction schemes in the country, and amendments have been made to mean more people still can access the benefit this year.
Cllr Beth Jones, cabinet member for safe, strong and inclusive neighbourhoods will be introducing the proposal. Her speech in support of the scheme can be read in full below:
“I am incredibly proud to be able to present the Council Tax Reduction scheme on behalf of this Labour administration this evening. Voting in favour of this policy this evening will be one of the most direct and clearest steps we can take to tackle the ever-growing levels of poverty affecting our constituents due to the impact of 13 long years of failure by this Tory government.
We bring this paper prior to the budget due to the significant financial commitment to those most in need of the support that we are committing to, and the implications on the budget that my colleague Cllr Kendrick will present shortly. But also, I believe that this is a fantastic example of the very real impact we can have in local government against the continued war this Government has upon those most in need in our city, driving more and more into levels of poverty that we could not have imagined a decade ago. For me, and for this administration, this scheme is something I will defend with every resource at our disposal.
So, I am incredibly proud to be bring this paper this evening and it is testament to the sound financial management of this council that I am in the position to recommend to council the continuation of the 100% council tax reduction scheme. This allows us to continue to support more than 12,000 residents, removing this additional financial burden totally from more than 10,000 residents.
We are only one of a handful of councils across the country that are doing so. Yes, we in the financial position to continue it, but it is also a conscious decision to continue this in a time of incredibly hard choices for local authorities who are so finically constrained after more than a decade of this Conservative government squeezing local government funding.
We have made a choice; we will always work to protect the most vulnerable in our communities.
For our lowest income residents, the choices are already too bleak, ‘heating or eating’ is a phrase we hear far too often. Council tax would be one burden too far. None of our neighbouring authorities choose to offer this support, with their poorest residents paying at least 15% since the government cease the revenue support grant funding for a local council tax reduction scheme. To some people this may not seem a lot but for those in receipt of UC even a reduced council tax payment can be a week’s food shop or the difference between putting on the heating or not.
There are some amendments to the scheme, but crucially these enable more people to access support not less. The most notable one being the switch to using information about self-employed for UC claimants as defined by the secretary state, which will put more people into the scheme. Other changes include provision for possible future government schemes such as the recent energy rebate, so that they do not affect entitlement. The scheme has also been amended to include an increase in working age applicable amounts for allowances and premiums, the income bracket for nondependent deductions and income brackets to decide second adult reduction in line with CPI rate of 10.1%.
I would like to thank the working group for their input in reaching this recommendation and the strong commitment all demonstrated to the continuation of this scheme. I would also like to thank officers for their work in identifying further ways to amend the policy to ensure that residents who need this support don’t slip through technicalities and loose out, and the wider budget work that goes on through the year to ensure we are in a financial position to deliver this critical scheme.
We can be justly proud that we still provide this scheme and as a Labour council use every tool available to us to support those most impacted by this government.
This is just part of the many efforts of this council, within our much wider and broader vital social inclusion agenda, to mitigate the effects of the Tory deliberate austerity agenda.
Other vital steps include our work to promote the Real Living Wage, work, the development of an emerging Good Employers Charter, the introduction of social supermarkets as an alternative to foodbanks, significant and growing investment into our financial inclusion consortium but also the steps we take to build council housing, deliver energy saving measures to homes and stop people being evicted. Our wider and further work with external partners across the city both within the business and voluntary sectors also remains critical.
So with this and the many other elements of the budget to come, we will continue to strive to support and benefit the lives of the residents of the city and seek to mitigate the devastating and far-reaching impact of over a decade of Conservative government has had on our society. I hope every member of the council can vote to support this policy tonight.”