Council Tax Hardship Relief West Sussex Guidelines 2021/22

  1. The West Sussex local authority boroughs and districts utilising these guidelines are:  

    • Adur District Council 

    • Arun District Council 

    • Chichester District Council 

    • Crawley Borough Council 

    • Horsham District Council 

    • Mid Sussex District Council 

    • Worthing Borough Council 

  2. This guidance sets out the guidelines under which residents in West Sussex will qualify for Council Tax Hardship Relief of up to £150 per household if they are in receipt of Council Tax Reduction during any period of 2021/22.  

  3. As part of its response to COVID-19, the Government announced in the Budget on 11 March 2020 that it would provide local authorities in England with £500m of new grant funding during 2020/21 to support economically vulnerable people and households in their local area. It was expected that the hardship fund was to be used to provide households with Council Tax relief of up to a maximum of £150, alongside existing local Council Tax support schemes with remaining funding to be used as the individual authorities decided to assist with hardship.

  4. The Government have not continued with a Council Tax Hardship scheme in 2021/22 but in partnership with West Sussex to support vulnerable residents it has been agreed to continue with a local scheme funded mainly by West Sussex County Council. Please see  West Sussex's Council Tax Hardship Scheme Report

  5. This document supplies guidance to authorities about the operation and delivery of the relief.

    Underpinning principles

  6. The West Sussex billing authorities all recognise that the ongoing impact of COVID-19 is likely to continue to cause fluctuations in household incomes and recognises that, as a result, some individuals may struggle to meet Council Tax payments. Councils will already have established their local Council Tax Reduction(CTR) schemes for 2021/22. 

  7. West Sussex billing authorities will primarily use their Council Tax support grant allocation to reduce the Council Tax liability of individuals in their area, using their discretionary powers under s13A(1)(c) of the Local Government Finance Act 1992.

  8. Council Tax reductions for this hardship relief for existing households in receipt of Council Tax Reduction should be applied as soon as possible from the beginning of the 2021/22 financial year and billing authorities should rebill Council Tax payers as quickly as practical. New successful applicants will have the Hardship Relief posted as they apply during the 2021/22 financial year. 

  9. Authorities will want to make the local population aware of how the grant support package will be delivered, for example through providing information on their websites and/or in press releases.

  10. Local authorities will maintain a record of grant expenditure under this scheme, both through the Council Tax system and their own local support mechanisms. 

  11. This assistance provided for Council Tax hardship will not affect the eligibility of recipients for other benefits. 

    Minimum reduction in Council Tax liability for working age local Council Tax support claimants

  12. Billing authorities in West Sussex will provide all recipients of working age local Council Tax Reduction during the financial year 2021/22 with a further reduction in their annual Council Tax bill of up to £150, using their discretionary powers to reduce the liability of Council Tax payers outside of their formal local Council Tax Reduction scheme design.

  13. Where a taxpayer’s liability for 2021/22, following the application of Council Tax Reduction, is less than £150, then their liability would be reduced to nil. Where a taxpayer’s liability for 2021/22 is nil, no reduction to the Council Tax bill will be available. 

  14. There should be no need for any recipient of Local Council Tax Reduction to make a separate claim for a reduction under this scheme. The billing authority should assess who is eligible for support from the hardship fund and automatically rebill those Council Tax payers. 

  15. Whether or not a taxpayer has been affected by COVID-19, directly or indirectly, should not be taken into account in assessing eligibility for this reduction. 

  16. The West Sussex billing authorities are keen to ensure that support is provided as quickly as possible to individuals who are eligible. It therefore considers that there is a strong case for councils to provide the support up front to enable the maximum support to be delivered promptly. 

  17. As this is a discretionary scheme there is no formal appeal against any decision. All West Sussex Councils will have an informal review process normally through a more senior or independent officer. Any challenge must be on a point of law through the courts