HC Deb 16 December 1987 vol 124 cc599-601W
Dr. Cunningham

To ask the Secretary of State for Social Services (1) whether he proposes that collective community charge payments will be collected from occupants of designated dwellings net or gross of any rebates due to the occupants;

(2) what representations have been made by the local authority associations about the possible difficulties of operating rebates in connection with a collective community charge scheme.

Mr. Scott

In preliminary discussions about the arrangements for rebating the community charge, the local authority associations have drawn attention to a number of possible difficulties in operating rebates on collective community charge contributions, including the difficulty of payments being made net of rebate entitlement. We shall be discussing these arrangements fully with the associations before making firm proposals.

Mr. Day

To ask the Secretary of State for Social Services how people with low incomes will be helped in meeting their liability for the community charge.

Dr. Cunningham

To ask the Secretary of State for Social Services (1) if he will make a statement on the proposed operations of community charge rebates and rate rebates in inner London and Waltham Forest in the period 1990 to 1994;

(2) what arrangements he has made with the local authority associations to discuss community charge rebates.

Mr. Scott

Help for those with low incomes will take two forms. Community charge rebates of up to 80 per cent. of the charge, depending on income and family circumstances: and compensation, built into income-related benefit levels (income support, housing benefit and family credit) towards the 20 per cent. minimum community charge payment.

These arrangements will carry forward similar help for low-income ratepayers from next April when all ratepayers will be expected to pay at least 20 per cent. of their domestic rates bill themselves. The rate rebate scheme will provide rebates up to 80 per cent., and the income-related benefit rates will include the average amount that income support claimants will be expected to pay towards their domestic rates.

Community Charge Rebates

Community charge rebates will be administered by local authorities in accordance with regulations that will be laid before Parliament in due course. Rebates will be available on personal community charges and collective community charge contributions, but not towards the standard community charge. Everyone who is liable for such a community charge will be eligible to apply for a rebate, except that rebates will not be available for those students who are required to pay only 20 per cent. of the charge.

Entitlement to community charge rebates will be based on an assessment of individuals' needs and resources. It is, envisaged that the method used for that assessment will be aligned as closely as is practicable within that set out in the Housing Benefit (General) Regulations 1987 for assessing entitlement to housing benefit, although the precise amounts used to determine entitlements will not be settled until nearer the time, and will be subject to approval by Parliament. The maximum 80 per cent. rebate will, however, be available to everyone receiving income support or with an income of an equivalent level. As with rate rebates, there will be smaller rebates according to a sliding scale for those with incomes above income support levels. It is intended that wherever possible people entitled to a rebate should receive a net community charge bill.

Where both partners in a married couple or a couple living as husband and wife are liable for a full charge, there will be arrangements for rebating both their liabilities and the details of these are being discussed. Since non-dependent members of a household will be responsible for their own community charge liabilities, there will be no non-dependant deductions within the community charge rebate scheme.

Discussions with the local authority associations on the details of the rebate scheme have already started, and we hope to publish draft Community Charge Rebate Regulations during the spring or early summer of 1988, following consultation. It is our intention that the regulations, in so far as they will apply in Scotland from April 1989, should be laid in the autumn. It is expected that the same regulations will apply in Wales and in most of England from April 1990, and in due course will be bringing forward separate proposals for special rebate arrangements for those local authorities in England where there will be a transition period during which certain people will be liable both for the community charge and for residential rates. The details of these arrangements will be considered separately, but during the transition period rebates will be available to help people with low income to meet both liabilities.

Income-Related Benefit Levels

The Government have decided that there will be a once-for-all adjustment to income-related benefit levels from 1989 to help meet the 20 per cent. minimum contribution to the community charge. This adjustment will take place in April 1989, to coincide with the introduction of the community charge in Scotland. The precise amounts to be included in benefit levels will be decided nearer the time, but they will reflect the average minimum community charge payments for Great Britain as a whole.

Claimants in Scotland will, therefore, receive compensation to cover the minimum contribution to the community charge from April 1989. And the amounts included in the income-related benefit levels will provide assistance towards the minimum contribution to domestic rates in England and Wales where the charge is not due to come in until 1990.

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