The Strategic Lead Revenues and
Benefits introduced the report and stated that the report outlined
the Local Council Tax Scheme (LCTS) including how pension-age
people were protected under the scheme, and how the scheme
considered those of working age. He stated that section 3 of the
report outlined the current scheme, and section 4 outlined the
proposed consultation, which would run until December and include
an LCTS Summit in November. He stated that the results of the
consultation would be analysed and brought before the Committee in
The Chair welcomed the report as he felt the LCTS needed a review and was pleased this would be taken for public consultation. He also supported the proposal that the consultation results would be brought back before committee. He highlighted section 4 of the report and questioned if the consultation criteria could be expanded, for example if the criteria surrounding number of dependants in a household could be consulted on. The Strategic Lead Revenues and Benefits responded that the only restrictions on the scheme were the protections surrounding pension-age residents and other vulnerable groups, as well as ensuring that going to work pays, but every other aspect of the scheme could be consulted on.
Councillor Hooper asked how the LCTS Summit would be held, if restrictions remained in place regarding COVID-19. The Corporate Director Finance, Governance and Property replied that this has not been decided on yet, but could potentially be held remotely via Microsoft Teams. He mentioned that the Deputy Leader was keen to build on the success of the Fair Debt Summit, and added that he would be working with the communications team to ensure residents were aware of the consultation and could respond. Councillor Ralph expressed his concern over the format of the consultation during COVID, particularly as the most vulnerable residents might not be able to access online consultations, but could be most affected by the proposed changes. The Director of Strategy, Communications and Customer Service responded that they would work with voluntary sector groups across Thurrock and use their networks to make residents aware of the consultation, as well as signposting through the contact centre. Councillor Ralph asked if assistance could be provided for those with disabilities that wished to respond to the consultation. The Director of Strategy, Communications and Customer Service stated that the team could provide assistance on request, such as large-print hard copies of the consultation, and the contact centre would try to facilitate these arrangements. She added that assistance with consultations could also be provided in local libraries and hubs.
Councillor Rigby added that the wording and format of the consultation needed to be considered to ensure it was user-friendly. She stated that there was also a proposed adult social care consultation, and wanted to ensure that there was no confusion for residents between the two consultations. The Corporate Director Finance, Governance and Property answered that this would be considered before it was released, and that residents would have the maximum consultation time of 12 weeks to respond. The Director Strategy, Communications and Customer Services added that she would check if there was any overlap with the adult social care consultation, and if there was this would be clearly communicated to residents and the contact centre team would be made aware. Councillor Duffin queried the proposed £6000 capital savings limit for access to the LCTS, and asked if special measures could be put in place to ensure that those residents who had been made redundant due to COVID could still access the LCTS fund. The Strategic Lead Revenues and Benefits replied that at this stage the report only considered the proposed consultation, with an impact assessment and consultation responses due to come back before Committee in January.
The Chair summarised the Committee’s comments into four key points:
1. The breadth of coverage of the consultation and ensuring that as many residents can access it as possible
2. The contents of the consultation, ensuring that it covers as many elements of the scheme as possible
3. Ensuring the consultation is as accessible as possible
4. Ensuring the consultation is clearly differentiated from others
1. Noted the analysis of the current scheme;
2. Considered the elements proposed for public consultation;
3. That the results of the consultation, recommended changes and impact analysis return to Corporate Overview and Scrutiny for consideration in January.