Simple answer: it’s been abolished. Next question…
What’s replaced it? It’s been replaced by something called Council Tax Support (also called Council Tax Reduction).
The big problem with Council Tax Support is that it’s not provided by part of the Department of Work and Pensions, like the Jobcentre Plus or the Pension Service. It’s provided by your local authority (your local council). There’s a number of reasons why this is a problem:
- Every local authority has had to design their own scheme, so whether you’re entitled and how much you’ll get will depend on where you live
- The amount of money local authorities are being given to pay Council Tax Support is 10% less than what they were given to pay Council Tax Benefit.
- With the old Council Tax Benefit, if you were getting a income based benefit (like Income Support, income based Employment and Support Allowance, or income based Jobseeker's Allowance) you would get all your council tax paid. Sadly with Council Tax Support the local authorities don’t have to do this. And as they have less money to play with most will reduce the amount of Council Tax Support for many people on benefit.
If you’re old enough to get Pension Credit, the good news is that if you would be entitled to full Council Tax Benefit over pension age, you will still be entitled to full Council Tax Support.
If you’re of working age, you will probably have to pay a proportion of your Council Tax even if you’re getting Income Support, income based Employment and Support Allowance, or income based Jobseeker's Allowance. The proportion you will have to pay varies from council to council: some councils ask you to contribute as little as 8.5%, at the other end some councils ask for more than 30%: this is outrageous.
Even if you’re of working age you may still get all your Council Tax paid: some councils will pay 100% if you’re a single parent of a child under 5, others if you are getting extra income based benefit if you’re severely disabled, others if you get a War Pension. But there’s no way to tell which applies to you without contacting your own local authority.
There are lots of other options available to councils: they can, for instance, take more of people’s savings into account, reduce the amount of income they ignore, or reduce the support they give to higher banded properties.
How can you challenge a Council Tax Support decision?As with all other benefits, you can’t normally challenge a Council Tax Support just because you believe the rules are unfair. All you can do is argue that the rules in your council haven’t been correctly applied to you.
There seems to be two ways to do this, depending on the circumstances:
- You can appeal to the Valuation Tribunal: this used to deal with things like having the wrong council tax band, but is now the place to go if you think your Council Tax Support is wrong.
- If you are also not happy about a Housing Benefit decision, and the reasons are the same for both benefit (for example they’ve made the same mistake on both Housing Benefit and Council Tax Support) you should appeal the Housing Benefit decision in the usual way, and if you win the local authority should change its decision about the Council Tax Support to follow the Housing Benefit decision.
In either case you should normally write first to the local authority to ask them to look at their decision again. If they don’t change their decision:
- If you are just appealing a Council Tax Support decision, contact the valuation tribunal at www.valuationtribunal.gov.uk/CTReduction.aspx
- If you are appealing against Housing Benefit and Council Tax Support decisions for the same reason, contact Her Majesty’s Court and Tribunals Service at www.justice.gov.uk/tribunals/sscs