Making welfare work locally: North Tyneside Council
Raising revenue to provide support for housing costs
In leading the Mayor’s Task Group, we’ve demonstrated North Tyneside Council’s and our partners’ clear commitment to putting residents first. Our main priority and focus has to be supporting them.
By working with partners such as the community or voluntary sector and sharing best practice and knowledge, we are able to offer a range of support and advice to our residents.
Norma Redfearn, Elected Mayor of North Tyneside
Key facts about the scheme
- Seven per cent minimum charge for all households
- £1 a week (£50 a year) for a single person and £1.33 a week (£75 a year) for couples in a Band A property.
- Removal of the second adult rebate and increase in non-dependent deductions
- Kept the same income disregards and tapers as council tax benefit to protect work and savings incentives
- Reduced council tax exemptions for empty homes. Part of the additional income generated by these changes, £0.5m, was used to top up the discretionary housing payments fund.
- North Tyneside Council's basic guide to council tax support 2014/15
- 90 per cent collection rate from residents that were paying council tax for the first time, with new minimum liabilities. This compares favourably with the majority of councils nationally.
- No complaints or appeals
- Positive feedback from local voluntary sector organisations as to the supportive approach they have taken with residents.
Why North Tyneside’s approach stood out
The design and implementation of North Tyneside Council’s council tax support scheme was directed by the elected Mayor’s ‘residents first’ approach. The Mayor chaired a welfare reform task group made up of senior leaders within the council and voluntary sector. This ensured that decisions were based on insights and expertise from across the community any changes could be looked at together. They kept their minimum payment relatively low and used the extra revenue gained from reductions to council tax discounts for empty homes to substantially supplement their discretionary housing payments. This enabled them to focus help to residents affected by both council tax support changes and housing benefit cuts. Part of this involved putting additional money advice into place for residents who got into financial difficulties and reducing court fees to £10 for those who didn’t pay but were liable for council tax for the first time.
- Planning with senior leaders from across the council and voluntary sector
A newly set up welfare reform task group plans, scrutinises and oversees the councils’ response to welfare reform. This collaborative approach has set firm foundations for future work on the universal credit local support services framework.
- Ensuring clear communication with communities most impacted
The council mapped which communities were most likely to be affected and focussed consultation and communication in their community centres
- Detailed assessment and consultation on the merits of a number of options
The council considered various scheme options and outlined potential solutions through public consultation. This revealed public acceptance of the need for small minimum payments. The council used the revenue raised from abolishing the second adult rebate and reducing the empty homes exemption to increase the discretionary housing payments budget.
- A supportive approach to people struggling to pay
The council offers choice of payment methods to make payment as easy as possible. A well thought out and holistic approach to support ensures that tenants with arrears get the help they need and don’t fall further into debt.