How have councils changed the support available?

From April 2013, local authorities across England were given the power to devise their own systems of Council Tax Support (CTS) for working-age adults. It replaced the national system of the Council Tax Benefit (CTB) which ensured that the poorest households did not have to pay council tax. 

In the first year of CTS the funding available from central government was 10% less than that available under the former system of CTB (which central government funded in full). This central government funding for CTS has now been combined with the general grant that local authorities receive and is subject to the same cuts.

Each year the local authority decides how CTS should work in their area. Now in its fourth year, 259 (of 326) councils require everyone to pay at least some council tax regardless of income, 9 more than last year and 30 more than in April 2013.

Changes over the past four years

From April 2016, only 41 councils (out of 326) are continuing to provide the levels of support available under the former Council Tax Benefit system, down from 58 in April 2013.

The most common change that local authorities have made from the former CTB system has been to introduce a “minimum payment” which requires everyone to pay at least some council tax regardless of income. From April 2016, 259 schemes include a minimum payment, up from 250 in April 2015, 245 in April 2014 and 229 in April 2013.

Along with a minimum payment, councils can make other changes to CTS. The graph below shows the number of councils that have introduced a particular change. Some local authorities introduced more than one new measure (for example reducing the second adult rebate and introducing a band cap), so councils may be counted more than once. 

  • 198 councils have reduced or removed the second adult rebate (the benefit homeowners not on a low income are entitled to if they share their home with someone on a low income), 8 more than the previous year, April 2015, and 24 more than April 2013.
  • 85 councils have introduced a band cap which involves limiting the amount of benefit received in higher value properties to the amount provided to those in lower value properties, 10 more than the previous year and 26 than in April 2013. The most common band cap applied is D.
  • 84 councils have lowered the maximum savings limit (the savings limit over which one is no longer eligible for Council Tax Benefit), 12 more than the previous year (one council returned their savings limit to CTB levels of £16,000) and 27 more than in April 2013. Most reduced the threshold to £6,000.
  • 52 councils have introduced a minimum CTS entitlement, 7 more than in April 2013. A minimum CTS entitlement of £5 per week would mean that claimants entitled to less than this would receive nothing.
  • 22 councils changed the income taper (the amount by which support is withdrawn as income increases) from the CTB rate of 20p per £1.19 councils increased the taper whilst 3 have lowered it.

The range of minimum payments

The most common change that local authorities made from the former CTB system was to introduce a “minimum payment” which requires everyone to pay at least some council tax regardless of income.

From April 2014, 245 schemes included a minimum payment, 16 more than in April 2013. From April 2015, this number increased to 250, and from April 2016 it has now reached 259.

A minimum payment can be administered in a range of ways. Most local authorities with a minimum payment require all residents to pay a proportion of their council tax, and they are only entitled to council tax support for the remaining share. For example, a resident must pay 20% of their council tax liability but can apply for Council Tax Support to help pay for the remaining 80%.

The size of this minimum payment varies by area; in 50 councils it is 8.5% or less of council tax liability and 67 councils it is over 20%. (Grant funding was available to councils that did not withdraw support from claimants by more than 8.5% in the first year when 112 councils set their minimum payment at 8.5% or less.)

The graph below shows the number of councils by the level of minimum payment:

  • There has been a large and steady drop in the number of councils with smaller minimum payments levels (of 8.5% or less); from 112 in April 2013 to 50 in April 2016.
  • The number of councils with a minimum payment of between 8.5% and 20% has steadied at 65 in April 2016, one fewer than last year but up from 23 in April 2013.
  • 20% is the most common minimum payment, with 77 councils choosing this level in April 2016, one more than the previous year and up from 53 in April 2013.
  • The largest increase in April 2016 was among councils setting a minimum payment above 20%. Currently, 67 councils had a minimum payment over 20% in April 2015, up from 53 the previous year and 41 in April 2013.
  • There are now 11 local authorities with a minimum payment of 30% or more.

View scheme information on a map

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Download the full breakdown of the changes

The data in the spreadsheet below provides the details of the 2013/14, 2014/15 and 2015/16 Council Tax Support schemes for all English local authorities.

Council tax support scheme characteristics in English local authorities, 2013/14 to 2016/17 (XLS)