Oxford City Council has unanimously voted to maintain its council tax reduction (CTR) scheme into 2020/2021 as part of its commitment to tackle poverty and inequality in the city.

The measure supports households with the costs of council tax, allowing claimants on low income or benefits to have their bill reduced by up to 100%.

Households on weekly incomes of less than £131.99 in 2020 can receive a full exemption from the tax, while households earning over £398 per week become ineligible for any reduction.

Since the national council tax benefit was abolished by the government in 2013, councils have been in charge of designing and implementing their own CTR schemes.

Lack of support from the central government has made the cost of the program unfeasible for many councils who have had their budgets cut. Oxford City Council is one of the few remaining local authorities in England to opt to continue fully funding CTR.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) found in 2019, that nearly 90% of English councils had made cuts to their CTR schemes since the government began to phase out revenue support grants for councils. The most common change has been the elimination of the 100% reduction; two fifths of councils have now increased minimum payments to at least 20%.

The program has been estimated by the council to cost £1.6 million in 2019/20, rising to £1.7 million in 2020/21.

Marie Tidball, cabinet member for supporting local communities, said in a statement: “Oxford City Council is one of a small handful of councils to retain our council tax reduction scheme at 100% for working age households.

“This demonstrates our commitment to preventing homelessness and our support for financially vulnerable people in our communities. The 100% discount benefits more than 1,000 households in Oxford. This provides a significant financial benefit for people who have suffered the most from the cumulative impact of policies like welfare reform. Government funding cuts mean that three million more households across England now have to pay some council tax or a greater proportion of their bill than in 2013. I’m proud that Oxford is bucking that trend and that we’re doing what we can to protect people who can least afford to pay the price of austerity.”

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