Decision Maker: Lead Member for Resources and Climate Change
Decision status: Recommendations approved
Is Key decision?: Yes
Is subject to call in?: Yes
Wealden District Council are consulting on changes to their Local Council Tax Reduction Scheme (LCTRS) for 2023/24. As Precepting Authority we are able to provide a response to the consultation. The proposed changes will see the extension to the 100% LCTRS discounts available, thereby potentially reducing the amount of Council Tax income the County Council will receive.
61.1 The Lead Member considered a report by the Chief Finance Officer together with exempt information contained in a later agenda item.
61.2 The Lead Member RESOLVED to: approve the response to Wealden District Council on proposed changes to their Local Council Tax Reduction Schemes for 2023/24 as set out below:
East Sussex County Council recognises the impact that the pandemic had, and cost of living crisis is having, on local communities, particularly, those who are vulnerable, both financially and for other reasons.
As you will be aware, in common with all local authorities, the County Council continues to face significant financial challenges in responding to day-to-day service demands and the ongoing impact of the pandemic. As we wait for the government to provide details of funding through the local government finance settlement for 2023/24, the authority’s Medium Term Financial Plan (MTFP) presents a deficit position by 2025/26 of £29.7m. Any loss of income from Council Tax arising from these proposed changes would only serve to increase the deficit and consequently adversely impact the level of services provided to residents.
Council Tax is the County Council’s most important funding stream (73% of net budget in 2022/23) and we rely on certainty of this income to enable the County Council to effectively plan services for the future. The Council will need to take account of any further reduction in the tax base on its income when considering options for achieving a balanced budget for 2023/24 and beyond. Any reductions in income from Wealden District residents will be felt across the whole of East Sussex and potentially impact on the services on which the most vulnerable in the whole rely.
Thereby, East Sussex County Council can only support Wealden District Council’s proposals to change its LCTRS if opportunities are sought to mitigate the loss of Council Tax income, for example, in the review of the treatment of empty properties. In addition, the County Council would request that every effort is made to implement and maximise income from the Council Tax flexibilities arising from the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill.
It is also requested that Wealden District Council provide East Sussex County Council, as the major precepting authority, with regular monitoring data that provides evidence of the actual impact of such changes.
61.3 Wealden District Council are consulting on proposals to change their LCTRS which will see a reduction on Council Tax income received by the County Council. Whilst the proposals address particular concerns within the authority, the impact of the reduction in income will be felt for County Council services that support the needs of residents across the whole of East Sussex.
61.4 The response to the consultation reflects potential negative impact of the changes and recommends only supporting the proposed amendments to the LCTRS if opportunities are sought to mitigate the loss of Council Tax income, including the flexibilities arising from the Levelling UP and Regeneration Bill.
Report author: Ian Gutsell
Publication date: 13/12/2022
Date of decision: 13/12/2022
Decided at meeting: 13/12/2022 - Lead Member for Resources and Climate Change
Effective from: 20/12/2022