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Oxford City Council asks public whether full council tax support should be scrapped

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Oxford City Council is asking the public whether full council tax support should be scrapped to help ease financial pressures.
Oxford City Council is asking the public whether full council tax support should be scrapped to help ease financial pressures.

Oxford City Council is asking the public whether all working-age residents should pay up to £2 per week in council tax to help ease financial pressures.

An eight-week consultation started today (Tuesday, 20 September) on ideas to adjust the city’s council tax reduction scheme, which currently covers up to 100 per cent of council tax bills for those on low incomes.

The council estimates that support could cost just shy of £2 million in 2022-23. Its report states that the solutions are an attempt to “streamline the process of award and ongoing administration and provide options on reducing cost to the council” from the start of the next financial year in April 2023.

Among the ideas is to ask for nominal contributions from all residents or only from the residents who are not passported – eligible for the council’s help because they receive other benefits.

Another suggestion is to cap the council tax reduction at 75 per cent for households with a non-dependant living in the property – for example, a child who still lives at home and has turned 18 – provided no member of that household is disabled.

The plans would not affect those of pension age, whose entitlement to support is covered by national rules.

The public is also invited to put forward alternative suggestions, including whether they would prefer service cuts or savings to be created in other ways.

Councillor Ed Turner (Lab, Rose Hill & Iffley), deputy leader of the city council and cabinet member for finance and asset management, said the authority had been put “between a rock and a hard place”.

“This is all pretty unwelcome,” he said. “I don’t think any option for reducing entitlement is something we would normally be enthusiastic to do. But it is right that we keep the options open because we won’t have a lot of choices.

“There is a pretty miserable paradox here. The more you need a council tax reduction scheme, the more people will claim a council tax reduction because people have less money and they need the help more, but that means there is a greater cost to the council (and) unless the government steps forward with additional funding, we are less able to afford it.”

Introducing the consultation, Councillor Shaista Aziz (Lab, Rose Hill & Iffley), the city’s cabinet member for inclusive communities and culture, said: “The questions are written to allow the council to have a variety of options so the public can comment on the requirement to protect certain groups and consider whether to remove the 100 per cent-funded scheme for those who are working.

“This will obviously help the council with our challenging finances and it also provides an opportunity for people to give views on other ways in which the council can increase its income.”

The city’s cabinet – the ruling group of Labour councillors – agreed to proceed with the consultation, which runs until 15 November. The results are due to be reported back to the cabinet for consideration in January 2023.

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