Finance

Council Tax Reduction Consultation

Changes to the Council Tax Reduction Scheme 2020/21

Coins

Ashford Bourough Council

Opens: 01 August 2019
Closes: 30 September 2019

What is this consultation about?

Each year the Council has to decide whether to change the Council Tax Reduction scheme for working age applicants in its area. This year the Council has decided that changes should be made to significantly change the Council Tax Reduction scheme. This is due to the introduction of Full-Service Universal Credit within the Ashford area. In effect the traditional link between Housing Benefit (which will no longer be available to new working age claimants, with some exceptions) and Council Tax Reduction will no longer exist. It is essential that the scheme is changed to meet future requirements, to reduce the cost of running the scheme and to ultimately prevent any additional costs being added to Council Tax.

Please note that whilst the changes are intended to reduce the level and cost of administration, the Council is not looking to reduce the total overall level of support available.

What is Council Tax Reduction?

Council Tax Reduction is a discount for Council Tax and it was previously called “Council Tax Support”. The level of discount is based on the income of the household. Currently the maximum discount is 82.5% of Council Tax for working age households, 95% for working age disabled & carer households and up to 100% for pensioners.

Why is a change to the Council Tax Reduction scheme being considered?

In April 2013, the Council Tax Benefit Scheme was replaced by a new Council Tax Reduction Scheme. Council Tax Benefit had been funded by the Department for Work and Pensions. It supports people on low incomes by reducing the amount of Council Tax they must pay.

The Council Tax Reduction scheme is determined locally by District Councils rather than the Department of Work and Pensions. Although the Government initially provided funding for the scheme, the funding has reduced each year

People can claim Council Tax Reduction if they are on certain benefits, or in receipt of a low income. The current scheme requires all working age applicants to pay a minimum of 17.5% of their Council Tax (a maximum level of support of 82.5%). Working age disabled & carer households pay a minimum of 5% of their Council Tax. Applicants in receipt of Jobseekers Allowance, Income Support and Income Rated Employment and Support Allowance receive the maximum level of support. Others receive a level of Council Tax Reduction based on their income and other factors.

A separate Central Government scheme is retained for people of pension age meaning that pension age claimants are not affected by changes to the scheme. Councils are only able to vary their schemes for people of working age.

All councils are required to review their Council Tax Reduction scheme each year. If they want to make any changes they must inform the public and gather views through public consultation.

Ashford Borough Council is proposing a number of changes to its existing scheme and, in line with legislation, we have a duty to consult you and provide you with the opportunity to tell us your views on the proposed changes to our Council Tax Reduction Scheme.

The Council is consulting on the following changes to its scheme for 2020/21 – these are explained in more detail later on:

  • Introducing an income ‘grid’ scheme for all working age applicants replacing the current means tested approach which was based on the previous Council Tax Benefit scheme (Change 1);
  • Limiting the number of dependent children used in the calculation of support to two for all working age applicants (Change 2);
  • Changing the claiming process for all applicants who receive Universal Credit (Change 3);
  • Removing the current earnings disregards and replacing them with a standard disregard of £25 (Change 4);
  • Disregarding Carer’s Allowance which is currently taken into account as income (Change 5);
  • Where the applicant is in receipt of Universal Credit, any amount awarded as a housing element will be disregarded when calculating the applicant’s income(Change 6);
  • Decrease the maximum level of protection for working age claimants from 82.5% to 80%, and from 95% to 90% for working age disabled & carer households (Change 7);
  • Remove the extended payments provision within the existing scheme (Change 8);
  • Provide a further income disregard of £40 where an applicant, their partner or dependant child is in receipt of Carer’s Allowance or a disability benefit such as Disability Living Allowance or Personal Independence Payment (Change 9)
  • Making all changes in circumstances which change any entitlement to Council Tax Reduction on a daily basis rather than the current (benefit based) weekly basis (Change 10);This scheme is estimated to affect 4,500 households in the borough. The gross cost of the scheme is £7.4 million which is spread across Ashford Borough Council (9%), Parish (3%), Kent County Council (73%), Fire (4%), and the Police (11%).

Who will this affect?

Working age households in the Borough who currently receive or will apply for Council Tax Reduction.

This will not affect pension age households.

Are there any alternatives to changing the existing Council Tax Reduction scheme?

We have also thought about other ways to make the process simpler. These have not been completely rejected (including maintaining the current scheme) and you are asked about them in the Questionnaire.

We have considered the following:

  1. Continuing with the current scheme
  2. Reduce funding to other Council services to pay for additional administration costs
  3. Use the Council’s reserves to keep the Council Tax Reduction scheme

Documents

Respond

Links

Celebrating funding success!

Ashford Borough Council has been awarded more than £3 million from the National Lottery Heritage Fund and The National Lottery Community Fund to revitalise Victoria Park.

The funding, thanks to National Lottery players, means the council can deliver its exciting plans to redevelop and restore one of Ashford’s oldest and most-loved green spaces, working with the local community, volunteer groups and the Friends of Victoria Park.

Proposals include a new children’s play area, improvements to the river, improved lighting across the park, and a new community hub building with café, and new toilets. The iconic Grade II Listed Hubert Fountain and the surrounding piazza area will also be restored and repaired.

The council will be employing four new members of staff to manage the project, including a parks officer who will be based on site. There will also be opportunities for the community to get involved with volunteering roles as part of the project.

Almost £1.9 million will be spent on repairs and conservation of the historical aspects of the park, and another £1 million has been earmarked for new building work including access paths, signage, bridges, and dipping platforms.

Friends of Victoria Park have welcomed the success and will be exhibiting some details of the proposals at Create and Mr. Harper’s Birthday Party this weekend.

Ashford Borough Council
https://news.ashford.gov.uk/news/celebrating-funding-success/

Beware the BBQ-bandits

Tips to keep your garden safe:

  • Lock valuables away: in the event of a theft claim your insurer will want to know if the item was locked in an outbuilding and will usually ask for proof of forced entry.
  • Defend your property: make sure gates have locks fitted and use security lights to deter thieves. Shrubs and plants along borders may put intruders off scaling walls.
  • Secure your bike: always keep bikes locked in an outbuilding. Some policies may even stipulate that bikes themselves should be locked to an unmoveable object within.
  • Know your policy: check what your policy covers. Insurers often limit claims for garden items.

Homeowners planning barbecues and garden parties this weekend are being urged to keep their properties secure, as the number of garden thefts soar.

According to the Crime Survey for England and Wales the number of garden thefts rose by 23% to 595,000 in 2018, up from 483,000 the previous year.

Amongst the most frequently stolen items were barbecues, lawnmowers, play equipment, garden furniture, plants and strangely even garden gnomes.

During the same period thefts from inside properties fell by 2% to 669,000.

Commenting on the figures, Steve Gibbon, a former police detective who now runs his own security consultancy says: “Garden gadgets are an increasingly attractive prospect for thieves. A high-end barbecue or a robotic lawnmower can cost a lot of money these days – but we do not treat them with the same care as other valuables.

“We leave them outside and unlocked in a way we would never do with a laptop or a mobile phone worth the same value.

“We feel garden equipment is safe within the grounds of our house, but it is not hard to move a lawnmower or even a barbecue on wheels.

“It might be an inconvenience, but people should keep their garden equipment under lock and key when they are out – in a garden shed or fixed to something with a decent padlock to reduce the risk.”

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Don’t let a scammer enjoy your retirement

Find out how pension scams work, how to avoid them and what to do if you suspect a scam.

Scammers can be articulate and financially knowledgeable, with credible websites, testimonials and materials that are hard to distinguish from the real thing. Scammers design attractive offers to persuade you to transfer your pension pot to them or to release funds from it. It is then invested in unusual and high-risk investments like overseas property, renewable energy bonds, forestry, storage units, or simply stolen outright.

Scam tactics include:

  • contact out of the blue
  • promises of high / guaranteed returns
  • free pension reviews • access to your pension before age 55
  • pressure to act quickly

Four simple steps to protect yourself from pension scams

  1. Reject unexpected offers
    If you’re contacted out of the blue about your pension, chances are it’s high risk or a scam. Be wary of free pension review offers. A free offer out of the blue from a company you have not dealt with before is probably a scam. Fortunately, research shows that 95% of unexpected pension offers are rejected.*
  2. Check who you’re dealing with
    Check the Financial Services Register (www.register.fca.org.uk) to make sure that anyone offering you advice or other financial services is FCA-authorised.
    If you don’t use an FCA-authorised firm, you also won’t have access to the Financial Ombudsman Service or the Financial Services Compensation Scheme. So you’re unlikely to get your money back if things go wrong. If the firm is on the FCA Register, you should call the Consumer Helpline on 0800 111 6768 to check the firm is permitted to give pension advice.
    Beware of fraudsters pretending to be from a firm authorised by the FCA, as it could be what we call a ‘clone firm’. Use the contact details provided on the FCA Register, not the details they give you.
  3. Don’t be rushed or pressured
    Take your time to make all the checks you need – even if this means turning down an ‘amazing deal’.
    Be wary of promised returns that sound too good to be true and don’t be rushed or pressured into making a decision.
  4. Get impartial information and advice
    The Pensions Advisory Service (www.thepensionsadvisoryservice.org.uk) – Provides free independent and impartial information and guidance.
    Pension Wise (www.pensionwise.gov.uk) – If you’re over 50 and have a defined contribution (DC) pension, Pension Wise offers pre-booked appointments to talk through your retirement options.
    Financial advisers – It’s important you make the best decision for your own personal circumstances, so you should seriously consider using the services of a financial adviser. If you do opt for an adviser, be sure to use one that is regulated by the FCA and never take investment advice from the company that contacted you or an adviser they suggest, as this may be part of the scam.

Financial Conduct Authority
The Pensions Regulator

#scamaware

Your Council Tax bill

We will all be getting the bill for Council Tax within the next day or two.

We tell you how much more you will be paying this year and where your money goes.

The table below shows the increase in the precept charged by each authority and the the total for a Band D property.

Increase by precepting authority for Band D.

As in previous years Kent County Council has been allowed to add an additional sum off 2% of their precept for Adult Social Care.

The next table shows how this affects the annual and monthly payments for all properties.

Change in Council Tax for all property bands in unparished area.

Note: Ashford Borough Council normally debits one payment of an odd amount then nine rounded payments. The table shows the average.

We exclusively show how much you pay for the services of all of the precepting authorities.

Approximate amount paid for services from Band D Property Council Tax.

References:
Kent County Council
www.kent.gov.uk/about-the-council/strategies-and-policies/corporate-policies/budget-book
Ashford Borough Council
www.ashford.gov.uk/benefits-and-council-tax/council-tax/council-tax-information/
Kent and Medway Fire and Rescue Authority
www.kent.fire-uk.org/about-us/financial-information/council-tax/council-tax-2019-20/
Kent Police and Crime Commissioner
www.kent-pcc.gov.uk/what-we-do/setting-the-kent-police-budget/

HM Revenue and Customs Alert

Action Fraud has experienced an increase in the reporting of malicious calls, voicemails, text messages or emails to members of the public purporting to be from HMRC.

The fraudsters state that as a result of their non-payment of tax or other duty, the victim is liable to prosecution or other legal proceedings such as repossession of belongings to settle the balance but can avoid this by arranging for payment to be made immediately by method such as bank transfer or by iTunes gift cards.

If the victim is hesitant or refuses to comply, the suspect makes a threat such as immediate arrest, bailiffs or in cases where the victim appears to be of overseas origin; deportation.

Often, the period for which the tax is allegedly due is distant enough to guarantee the victim will have little, if any, paperwork or ability to verify the claims. Once the money is paid the suspects sever all contact.

It is vital that the public exercise caution when receiving messages or telephone calls of this nature.

What you need to do
Always question unsolicited requests for your personal or financial information. Just because someone knows your basic details (such as your name and contact details), it doesn’t mean they are genuine. Instead, contact the company directly using trusted methods such as a known email address or phone number.

Listen to your instincts. If something feels wrong then it is usually right to question it. No genuine organisation will ask you to pay taxes, bills or fees using iTunes Gift Cards, or any other type of voucher.

Don’t be rushed or pressured into making a decision. Under no circumstances would a genuine bank or some other trusted organisation force you to make a financial transaction on the spot.

Report Phishing attempts. If you receive a call, text or email of this nature and have not lost money, report this as a phishing attempt to Action Fraud.

Action Fraud 7 January 2019

KCC Budget Consultation

Budget Consultation 2019-20

Kent County Council

Opens:11 October 2018
Closes: 21 November 2018

Kent County Council (KCC) provides a huge range of essential services to the people of Kent and when times are tough it is more important than ever to spend money wisely. We need to make some big decisions and would value your views before setting next year’s council budget (April 2019 to March 2020).

How KCC are funded£967m planned spend

Funding for the KCC budget comes from many sources in addition to council tax, including grants from central government. About a third of the council’s budget is made up of money we receive from council tax. Each year we decide how much we can spend on services for Kent residents and businesses for the next financial year, compared to how much funding we’re likely to get from the government and local taxation.
www.kent.gov.uk/about-the-council/finance-and-budget/how-we-are-funded

KCC prioritises spending on services that:

  • make sure children and young people get the best start in life
  • help communities feel the benefits of economic growth by being in work, healthy and enjoying a good quality of life
  • help older and vulnerable residents to be safe and supported with choices to live independently.

These are KCCs strategic priorities. The Strategic Statement Annual Report details how every pound spent in Kent is used to deliver better outcomes for Kent’s residents, communities and businesses.
www.kent.gov.uk/about-the-council/strategies-and-policies/corporate-policies/increasing-opportunities-improving-outcomes

The Big Challenge

£640m savings over 8 yearsSome councils are in severe financial difficulty and are now being forced to make some tough decisions, including reducing services to a minimum. KCC is not one of these authorities.

In recent years the amount of money available to local councils from the government has decreased while demand and cost for council services has increased. We expect this trend to continue in the future.

Since 2010, we have made savings of £640 million to offset these challenges. These savings have focussed on the transformation of services, which means delivering better outcomes at lower cost and working in more efficient ways. This has allowed us to continue to protect and invest in front line services.

However, there is also increased pressure on spending because of the rising demand for services, inflation and the living wage. This means that despite the £640 million savings KCC have already made since 2010, they still have a considerable shortfall to find now (around £94 million in 2019-20) and in years to come.

You can find out more about the council’s finance and budget (www.kent.gov.uk/about-the-council/finance-and-budget), including what they spend their money on (www.kent.gov.uk/about-the-council/finance-and-budget/spending) and council tax (www.kent.gov.uk/about-the-council/finance-and-budget/council-tax).

What do you think?

We’d like to hear your views on:

  • Council Tax – is a modest rise acceptable if it helps to sustain the services that you value most?
  • The future of KCC services – are they focussing on the right priorities or have we got some things wrong?
  • How can KCC improve their communication with you – so that you are aware of the challenges they face now and in the future?

Please read the budget consultation document before completing the online questionnaire.
https://consultations.kent.gov.uk/gf2.ti/f/965314/41994469.1/DOCX/-/Budget_Consultation_Information_Document.docx

The consultation will close on 21 November 2018.

Complete the online questionnaire
https://consultations.kent.gov.uk/consult.ti/DraftBudgetStrategy201920/answerQuestionnaire?qid=5376387

Consultation documents

For more details on the UK’s public finances and the terms used to describe them see the Office for Budget Responsibility’s Brief Guide to Public Finances (http://obr.uk/forecasts-in-depth/brief-guides-and-explainers/public-finances).

Kent County Council  11 October 2018
www.kent.gov.uk/about-the-council/finance-and-budget/our-budget

Beware of bogus SSAFA collectors

Please be aware that there are bogus collectors purporting to be from SSAFA, they are operating on a door to door basis in Kent.

  • SSAFA does not conduct door to door collections.
  • All SSAFA collections are conducted at organised events, never door to door.
  • All SSAFA volunteers carry photographic Identity Cards.

These bogus collectors are operating in the Dover and Folkstone area and there have been further reports of bogus caller activity from other areas of Kent.

In the event that these bogus operators call on you, this is the action you should take.

  • Politely decline to contribute whatever is requested.
  • If you feel afraid or threatened by a doorstep caller, phone 999. For non-urgent calls, phone Kent Police 101.
  • If someone knocks on your door claiming to work for SSAFA, report it to SSAFA directly on 01622 792363.

NEVER agree to work being done by or paying cash to someone you have just met on your doorstep.

Report it

If you have you fallen victim to a doorstep criminal? Report it to KCC.

For advice and to report issues to KCC Trading Standards contact the Citizens Advice consumer service

Give safely to SSAFA

You can give to SSAFA

  • online at https://www.ssafa.org.uk/give
  • by telephone: 020 7463 9225
  • by post: send a cheque made payable to SSAFA toSSAFA
    The Armed Forces Charity
    4 Dunstan’s Hill
    London EC3R 8AD

SSAFA  16 July 2018

Beware of internet banking scams

Kent County Council (KCC) have received reports of fraudsters tricking people into giving them access to their internet banking.

The criminals pose as employees from broadband providers and claim that someone has hacked into their account, the user is then tricked into giving access to their computer and told to log into their internet banking.

So far, Police have identified 45 victims with a combined loss of £128,000.

A current trend is for victims to be sent an automated message stating that their router has been compromised. Please do not respond to this message but instead contact your broadband provider directly for advice.

Never allow a caller access to your computer. An internet provider will never ask for your bank details.

NEWSFLASH: Ashford man loses £21,000 to internet banking scam.
www.kentonline.co.uk/ashford/news/man-conned-out-of-21k-in-cyber-scam-186590/

For more information on how to keep you and your family safe from scams, visit the KCC Public Protection website.
www.kent.gov.uk/social-care-and-health/care-and-support/staying-safe/scams/types-of-scam

Report it

For advice and to report issues to KCC Trading Standards contact

Citizens Advice consumer service on 03454 04 05 06
Monday to Friday from 9am to 5pm.

Online: https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/consumer/scams/reporting-a-scam/

Kent County Council 20 July 2018
https://mailchi.mp/b5521017efa9/beware-of-internet-banking-scams?e=5d620a3416
(KCC distribute Consumer Alerts via Mailchimp)

Fraud Alert for TSB Customers

Action Fraud have issued two fraud alerts regarding customers of TSB.

The first warns of an increased risk of phishing attacks following the problems recently experienced by TSB.

The second warns of an increase in the number of “port out” fraud cases reported by TSB customers. Fraudsters are number porting a victim’s telephone number to a SIM card under their control and then using the number to access the victim’s bank accounts.

Protect Yourself

Whilst the advice given by Action Fraud is particularly relevant to TSB customers at this time, it should be followed by everybody:

  • Don’t assume an email or text is authentic:

    Always question uninvited approaches in case it’s a scam. Phone numbers and email addresses can be spoofed, so always contact the company directly via a known email or phone number (such as the one on the back of your bank card).

  • Clicking on links/files

    Don’t be tricked into giving a fraudster access to your personal or financial details. Never automatically click on a link in an unexpected text or email. Remember, a genuine bank will never contact you out of the blue to ask for your full PIN or password.

  • If you have received a suspicious TSB email,

    please do not respond to it, report it to Action Fraud www.actionfraud.police.uk/report_phishing and also forward it to emailscams@tsb.co.uk

  • PAC Code notifications

    If you receive an unsolicited notification about a PAC Code request, contact your network provider immediately to terminate the request. Also notify your bank about your phone number being compromised.

  • Requests to move money:

    A genuine bank or organisation will never contact you out of the blue to ask for your PIN, full password or to move money to another account.

  • Every Report Matters.

    If you have been a victim of fraud or cyber crime, report it to us online or by calling 0300 123 2040.

  • Visit Take Five and Cyber Aware

    for more information about how to protect yourself online.
    https://takefive-stopfraud.org.uk/
    https://www.cyberaware.gov.uk/

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