Residents on low incomes and those who have been plunged into poverty as a result of being furloughed or losing their jobs during the pandemic are set to benefit from continued support next year to offset any increases in council tax bills.
At a meeting on 9 November, Merton Council’s Cabinet agreed to recommend to Council that the borough’s Council Tax Support Scheme should be extended for the financial year 2021/22, so that recipients are not left worse off if their bills go up in April.
Each year, the council has to decide whether to update scheme so that low levels of council tax are maintained for some pensioners and those on low incomes.
Eligibility for council tax support depends on factors including household income and who else is living with the person making the claim, including their children.
Based on the number of claimants in October, revising the council tax support scheme would cost the council £10.8million in 2021/22, assuming that council tax increases by 2%. However, this amount is likely to increase, due to an expected rise in claimants following on from the impact of the second lockdown, even though the Government’s coronavirus furlough scheme has been extended to March.
Deputy Leader of the Council and Cabinet Member for Finance, Councillor Mark Allison, said: “We want to protect the poorest residents in the borough by preventing them from facing increased council tax bills in April.
“The effects of the pandemic have hit residents on low incomes particularly hard and driven more people, who have lost their jobs, or been furloughed, into poverty.
“The scheme will help bridge the gap between them and other residents who have been able to remain working and are in better paid employment.
“We’ve worked hard to take a business-like approach to managing our budgets and that means even now, when we are facing an unprecedented deficit, we are still able to support residents who are most in need.”
The matter will now be subject to a final vote at Full Council on November 18.