Record numbers in England claiming council tax support, says LGA

More than 2.5 million working age people across England claimed a council tax discount between April and June. It marks the highest number since records began in 2015, according to local authorities.

The Local Government Association (LGA), which released the figures, said they expect these numbers to have risen further over the summer and could keep rising in future years due to the pandemic’s impact on people’s finances.

Council tax support is available for people on low incomes. Different local councils have different rules around the support available but it usually takes the form of a percentage discount on one’s council tax bill.

Analysis commissioned by the LGA from LG Futures estimates that the rise in claimant numbers in 2020/21 could cost at least £586 million.

The LGA warned that growing numbers of low-income families will likely face bigger council tax bills unless the Government fully funds the record demand for council tax support.

The scheme has been running since 2013, when the national Council Tax Benefit was abolished.

The LGA said that the Government’s funding for this new scheme has fallen by about £2 billion between 2013 and 2020.

Cllr Richard Watts, chair of the LGA’s resources board, said: “The sharp rise in council tax support claimants is heaping further pressure on this already underfunded vital local safety net. No one wants to ask those on the lowest incomes to pay more but councils have faced an impossible position that the pandemic has made worse.

“The Government must ensure councils have the full amount of funding required to provide council tax support to those who need it.

“Otherwise, it is almost inevitable that bills will continue to be forced up for those who can least afford to pay.”