Harrow Council has announced plans that will help some of the borough’s poorest residents and save council tax payers’ money.
Last year the council consulted with residents on plans to modernise Council Tax Support in response to the Government’s rollout of Universal Credit. It has now agreed on a scheme that makes it easier to claim, will boost support for our most vulnerable residents, and cuts admin costs.
Harrow’s Labour Group has also agreed to invest an extra £400,000 a year to help those worst affected by Government cuts. The new funding will give extra Council Tax relief to families on Universal Credit, freeze Council Tax for low-income households, and create a new Council Tax Protection Fund for people experiencing hardship.
Under the new Fund, families making their first claim for Universal Credit will receive a two-week Council Tax discount, helping to see them through the long wait before they get their first payment. Harrow is the first Council in the country to offer this kind of support to families affected by Universal Credit.
Cllr Adam Swersky, cabinet member for Finance, said: “We’ve already seen the impact of Tory welfare reforms on our most vulnerable residents. The wait for Universal Credit can be an especially uncertain and worrying time and can force families to rely on food banks or even become homeless. Our new investments will make thousands of people better off at their time of greatest need.
“We are committed to making Harrow a fairer borough. I’m proud that this Council is making good on that promise, helping those hit hardest by austerity and our precarious economy.”
Universal Credit is a single payment designed to replace the current benefits system. The amount of Universal Credit can change as people’s income changes, and claimants can wait six weeks for their first payment. This means frequent changes to Council Tax Support, uncertainty for claimants and higher costs for the council.
The modernised Council Tax Support scheme will be a banded scheme, meaning small changes in income won’t affect people’s entitlement. It will also be simpler to claim with less bureaucracy. Transitional protection will be in place so no one will be worse off in the first year.
The new Council Tax Protection Fund will help households moving on to Universal Credit for the first time. It will also allow us to protect families in hardship, avoiding visits from bailiffs if they fall into arrears.