NEW CHANGES TO COUNCIL TAX BILLS REFLECT CARE FUNDING PROBLEMS IN ENGLAND
NEW CHANGES TO COUNCIL TAX BILLS REFLECT CARE FUNDING PROBLEMS IN ENGLANDIt is doubtless somewhat inconvenient that just as councils have worked out their latest local reduction schemes, and are calculating their bills for 2017-2018, the Government has ordered alterations to the contents and format of council tax bills in England and Wales.
The Council Tax (Demand Notices) (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2017 SI 13 amend the existing regulations on demand notices. Bills must provide additional information about expenditure on adult social care functions to be presented along with notices in the financial year beginning in 2017 and in subsequent financial years.
SOCIAL CARE FUNDING PROBLEMS
Taxpayers are to be made aware that bills are widely expected to be higher in 2017/18, reflecting the growing shortfalls in funding social care. Originally, rules required local authorities to call referendums in England wherever council tax rises exceeded 2% or more. This led to a fashion for 1.99% rises in bills by many authorities.
However, shortfalls in social care budgets have forced the Government to relax these rules. Now the 151 social care authorities in England can increase council tax by a further 3%. The Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government made an offer to adult social care authorities with functions under the Care Act 2014 (i.e. county councils in England, district councils and London borough council) allowing them to be able to charge an additional “precept” on their council tax for future financial years without holding a referendum. This means an additional 3% may be added on, allowing total rises of up to 5% this year without triggering any referendums. However, this unlikely to be sufficient to cover care funding shortfalls.
On 20th February 2016, the Chairman of the Local Government Association Lord Porter said services supporting the most vulnerable people in our communities are at “breaking point” meaning councils are increasingly unable to turn down the chance to turn down any opportunity to raise funds.
He stated: “But extra council tax income will not bring in anywhere near enough money to alleviate the growing pressure on social care both now and in the future.”
The situation reflects the rise in council tax default which has arisen through welfare cuts and the removal of council tax benefit in 2013. Unfortunately, it seems the Government has yet to fully admit or recognise this connection.
CHANGES TO BILLS IN WALES
Changes have also been made to bills have been made by the Welsh Assembly which came into force on 15 February 2017.
The Council Tax (Demand Notices) (Wales) (Amendment) Regulations 2017 SI (W) 40 relate to decisions to charge higher premiums on empty dwellings.
The information to be supplied with council tax bills must also be amended to include information about any premium (this will typically come in the explanatory notes).
The new regulations alter Schedules 1 and 2 of the Council Tax (Demand Notices) (Wales) Regulations 1993 require demand notices to include a statement of the number of days that the council believes a premium applies. This will be helpful to property owners challenging local authority decisions.
Where the authority believes a premium applies, a demand notice must include a statement of the amount of the premium and the reason for it. The notice must also carry an explanation for the taxpayer of the duty to notify changes and the possible consequences of failing to comply with that duty.
Council Tax (Demand Notices) (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2017 SI 13 in force from 10 February 2017 amending SI No.3038 of 2011
Council Tax (Demand Notices) (Wales) (Amendment) Regulations 2017 SI (W) 40
Council Tax (Administration and Enforcement) (Amendment) (Wales) Regulations 2017 (SI 2017/41)
Public Finance 20 February 2017 – http://www.publicfinance.co.uk/news/2017/02/upcoming-council-tax-rises-not-enough-stem-social-care-crisis-lga-warns?