100% rebate for poorest Somerset residents
The new unitary council for Somerset comes into being in April next year. Today the Executive of Somerset County Council, agreed a new scheme that will help the poorest residents of Somerset. However that in effect has the endorsement of the district councils too. Because among Somerset County Councillors are the leaders of 4 of the 5 councils that will merge to form the Unitary. The new scheme set out today will replace the various schemes currently operated by the four district councils.
A new, unified Council Tax Reduction Scheme, will go to full council on 23 November. Cllr Liz Leyshon, Executive Lead Member for Finance and Human Resources explains: “It is important that we provide help to the people who need it most, no matter where they live in the county. The new Somerset Council is a chance to make Somerset fairer for everyone. We also want to support our foster carers who make a real difference to the lives of vulnerable children in Somerset. We will also support charities based in the county that do so much for so many people.”
These are the key points form the proposed scheme:
100% council tax reductions will be available for
- A single person with an income below £95 a week,
- or a couple with two children on a weekly income below £260,
- Some families with an income below £500 a week could also be eligible for some support.
Care leavers up to the age of 25 will continue to be exempt from Council Tax
SCC registered foster carers and qualifying Special Guardians a 50% reduction.
However the scheme for pension age applicants is set by Government and will continue unchanged.
SCC have looked at how the new proposals will work out compared with the old ones. They reckon that 47% of claimants will be better off, 28% will be more or less the same and 25% will be worse off. SCC believe that these are the categpories of resident who are most likely to worse off under the new scheme:
- Anyone with over £6,000 in savings or capital who is not on a passported benefit;
- Larger families with significant numbers of children and
- Those paying significant amounts of child care costs
The council are also looking at other aspects of the council tax that could rise. For instance there will be no discounts for second homes or empty homes. This is to encourage bringing much needed housing stock back into use. Council tax for long-term empty properties will attract premiums, of up to 300% if a property is empty after ten years.
Business rate relief
Finally a lot of rural businesses will be worse off under the new proposals. Where businesses in rural settlements have a Rateable Value of up to £16,500 and are not in receipt of mandatory relief, the Council may decide to give up to 100% discretionary relief. In South Somerset at the moment, small rural businesses qualify for 100% business rates relief. Under the new scheme that will drop to 75%.
Non profit making organisations and recreational clubs will also be eligible for discretionary relief of up to 75% business rates relief. However charities will be eligible for business rates relief of 20%.