New guidance launched for council tax practitioners

The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman has launched a new guide to help council benefits practitioners manage complex council tax reduction (CTR) enquiries and complaints.

Every year, the Ombudsman receives around 100 complaints and enquiries about the way local authorities manage CTR – sometimes called council tax support. It is a reduction in the amount of council tax a person is required to pay, rather than a paid benefit.

Council tax reduction replaced council tax benefit in 2013, and unlike the previous scheme, CTR is designed and managed locally, so there are no national regulations for authorities to follow.

The Ombudsman’s guidance is based on the cases the Ombudsman receives and offers practical advice to help councils improve how they provide CTR.

Some of the issues the Ombudsman comes across include inconsistent recovery of CTR reversals and housing benefit overpayments, inaccessible or unclear policies and incorrect signposting and discretionary payments.

Michael King, Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman, said:

“This new guidance gives practitioners an insight into our thinking around CTR complaints, and will help inform local authorities when revising their guidance on the subject.

“These cases can be particularly complex when there is interplay with housing benefits, and the different appeal rights this affords people. We hope the good practice section we have included will help ensure cases are dealt with consistently and fairly.”

Article date: 22 August 2019