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News Report Page 8 of 18
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Council Tax support grant extension needed to protect low income households struggling to pay

RISING numbers of families on low incomes face paying more Council Tax from April without an extension to 1 off Government funding for Local Council Tax support schemes, the Local Government Association warns.

Latest figures show more than 2.5 million working age people across England claimed a discount on their Council Tax between April and June this year; this remains the highest number since records began in 2015.

The Government has provided ₤670 million to Councils in this financial year (2021/22) to help them provide discounts to households struggling to pay their Council Tax bills because of the Pandemic.

With the ongoing economic fallout of Covid19 likely to continue for some time, the LGA is calling on the Chancellor to use this month's Spending Review to continue the grant for the next 3 years.

Without this extension, the LGA is warning that Councils; facing significant existing and future spending pressures over the next few years; will be unable to provide Council Tax support to all those in need.

This could combine with the end of the Universal Credit uplift, and other Covid related support, and rising bills to add to cost of living concerns for some of our most vulnerable.

Since 2013, Councils in England have been running their own local schemes to help economically vulnerable households with Council Tax bills after the national benefit was abolished. However, the funding Government has given to Councils to fund these schemes reduced by around ˝ (₤2 billion,) between 2013 and 2020.

This has increasingly left Councils with an unpalatable choice between charging Council Tax to the working age poor; who in many cases may not have paid Council Tax before; or diverting funding from under pressure services, such as adult and children's social care, homelessness support and roads maintenance, to pay for discounts.

Local Authorities have been at the forefront of providing support to economically vulnerable households through the Pandemic.

As we move on, the LGA said the Spending Review also needs to provide an effective long term solution to preventing poverty and disadvantage that moves away from providing crisis support towards improving life chances and building resilience. This is vital to levelling up and tackling the stark inequalities exposed by Covid19.

Councils want to be able to work with households and communities to tackle the underlying causes of crisis and disadvantage, to reduce inequality and promote strong, integrated and economically enfranchised communities.

While the mainstream benefits system will need to provide the 1st line of support to those in need, the vital role of Local Government in supporting individuals and families in hardship must be appropriately recognised and adequately resourced.

The LGA said the Spending Review also presents an ideal opportunity to fully restore core, separately identified funding of at least ₤250 million each year for wider local welfare provision to ensure that all communities are fairly and effectively supported throughout recovery and beyond.

Cllr Shaun Davies, Chair of the LGA's Resources Board, said:- "Councils know how tough things are for many low income working households who are already concerned about potential income losses and the cost of living. Record numbers are claiming a discount on their Council Tax due to the Pandemic and 1 off Government funding has been crucial to help Councils provide vital support for those struggling to pay this year. No Council wants to ask those on the lowest incomes to pay more. Faced with severe funding and demand pressures that continue to stretch local services to the limit, many Councils will have little choice, but to reduce discounts without an extension to this Government grant beyond this year. The Spending Review needs to provide Councils with the full amount of funding required to provide Council Tax support to those who need it over the next few years to avoid bills being forced up for those who can least afford to pay."

Local support for businesses during the Covid crisis was a lifeline, says Bill Esterson MP

THE Liverpool City Region Combined Authority distributed more than ₤44m in emergency funds to more than 4,000 businesses, providing ₤3m via a Future Innovation Fund and paid out more than ₤2.5m through LCR Cares.

A number of schemes were set up and delivered at high speed alongside support from Local Authorities. Sefton Council paid out grants totalling ₤97.7m and Sefton businesses have saved more than ₤60m through business rates discounts.

The Labour Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram secured extra funding from the Government when the City Region was 1st put into Tier 3 restrictions, back in October 2020. A number of other specific financial support measures were introduced:-

₤5m to support businesses to access national Government funds and improve the survival rate of LCR businesses.

Increased flexibility for Local Authorities to use the ₤6m Town Centres Fund to support local high street recovery.

₤400,000 to support micro businesses and SMEs in the cultural sector.

A ₤3m Future Innovation Fund Pilot programme to support Liverpool City Region's small and medium sized enterprise (SME) community, to incentivise them to innovate, adapt and diversify in response to the Pandemic.

LCR Cares was a unique crowd funding campaign to support community organisations that were working to support their neighbours through the Pandemic. The ₤2.5m fund was distributed to more than 300 local groups and charities providing services such as food deliveries, activities for children, and provision of PPE to care homes.

Mr Esterson, MP for Sefton Central, said:- "The local support that was on offer for businesses in our Region was a lifeline during the Pandemic and I am sure it kept many firms in business and saved thousands of jobs. It was a huge challenge and our Labour run Local Authorities and the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority rose to the challenge and showed what good can be done when power is in local hands rather than dictated from Central Government. The Metro Mayor has now launched his ₤150m Covid Recovery Fund which is the largest package of business support the Region has seen in many years. Labour is on your side as we recover from the Pandemic and as we have been throughout."

In August 2020, the Combined Authority published Build Back Better; an ambitious economic recovery plan for the whole of the City Region, supported by leading figures from the worlds of business, academia, the social economy, the public sector and trades unions.

The plan, submitted to Central Government, set out how ₤1.4 billion in investment could unlock ₤8.8 billion of projects to begin in the next 12 months, creating 94,000 permanent jobs, with a further 28,000 jobs in construction.


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