The region’s only scheme to provide a 100 per cent discount on council tax payments to all financially vulnerable households will be extended for another year.
Proposals to continue the Local Council Tax Reduction Scheme into 2023/24 were approved at a meeting of Durham County Council this morning.
The plans, which were first approved by Cabinet in July but required full council approval, were put forward to support low-income households across the county who are facing financial strain due to the current cost-of-living crisis.
Despite increases in inflation placing unprecedented pressure on council budgets in County Durham, the council is the only authority in the region, and one of just a handful nationally, to have maintained the scheme in line with the old council tax benefit scheme.
For the past nine years, it has offered eligible residents a discount of up to 100 per cent on their council tax charge, with around 54,800 residents currently benefiting from this support across the county. This includes 34,000 working age claimants and 20,800 pensioners.
Cllr Richard Bell, Deputy Leader and Cabinet member for finance, said: “We know these are difficult times for our residents, and, as a council, we are currently facing more financial uncertainty than we have ever done, which makes our budget planning very challenging.
“However, it is important that we provide support to those residents who need it most. The continuation of the Local Council Tax Reduction Scheme will help to ease some of the burden on vulnerable households across the county.”
The scheme will next be reviewed in a year’s time in advance of the budget setting for 2024/25.
Cllr Alan Shield, Cabinet member for equality and inclusion, said: “We appreciate and understand the difficulties that many of our residents are facing in the current climate of rising energy costs and increases in the cost-of-living.
“Our Local Council Tax Reduction Scheme is one of a number of measures that we are continuing to implement to support people. For example, we have recently received further funding from the Government’s Household Support Fund which will allow us to provide additional support to households in need through throughout the winter.
“Our Welfare Rights Team and other partner agencies such as Age UK, Citizens Advice, Durham Christian Partnership and East Durham Trust can also offer benefit checks to ensure people are claiming all the benefit support they are entitled to, and we have a comprehensive Welfare Assistance Scheme in place to support those in a crisis situation.
“Meanwhile, we continue to work with County Durham Community Foundation to offer funding to the voluntary and community sector to create a network of Warm Spaces where people can get warm this winter, helping to ease the pressure on households whose budgets are under increasing strain. This scheme will build on our strong partnership working and the funding we provide to support local food banks as well as our work with the North East First Credit Union.”
Residents can access more details of a range of financial support on the council’s website, at www.durham.gov.uk/helpwithyourmoney