The Commission considered a report setting out an update on the Council Tax Base 2024/25.
Summary of points highlighted by officers in presenting the report and accompanying slide presentation:
1. Section 67 of the Local Government Finance Act 1992 (as amended) required the Council to determine its tax base for council tax purposes each year. Properties were recorded in eight national bands by value (A to H) as determined the Valuation Office Agency. The number of properties was expressed as a number of Band D equivalent properties.
2. In accordance with the regulations, the Council must set a tax base for council tax purposes and notify major precepting bodies by 31 January each year.
3. As required by the Local Authorities (Calculation of Council Tax Base) Regulations 2012 which came into force on 30 November 2012, the Council had produced a ‘snapshot’ which was based on the number of properties of the Tax Base at a specified date in October, net of exemptions, reductions, and discounts. This ‘snapshot’ was known as the CTB1 return and essentially calculated the number of chargeable properties in the city.
4. A report seeking determination of the Council Tax Base would be submitted to the Cabinet on 5 December and to Full Council on 12 December.
Summary of main points raised/noted in discussion:
1. In response to questions in relation to student exemptions, it was noted that students were entitled to an exemption from paying council tax if everyone living in a property was
a full-time student. Alternatively, students might be entitled to a discount if some of the people occupying a property were full time students. There was an ongoing increase in the city in new properties being built (or redeveloped) as university halls of residence or other purpose-built, student-only accommodation; there were also ongoing wider discussions and liaison between the Council and the city’s universities around the universities’ plans for extending the supply of student accommodation, bearing in mind wider community and planning considerations. Bristol had a large student population and at the end of October, the status of all students had not, at that point, been evidenced to the Council; it was therefore necessary to estimate the number of additional students likely to be eligible for exemptions (data from previous years was also used in terms of this estimate).
2. In terms of the table showing the calculation of the Council Tax Base 2024/25 (as shown in slide 4 of the officer presentation), it was clarified (noting that reports on the Council Tax Base 2024/25 and the Council Tax Reduction Scheme 2024/25 were due to be submitted to the Cabinet on 5 December and to Full Council on 12 December) that the table displayed two iterations of a potential tax base ‘side by side’. These options differed only in terms of the ‘Adjustment due to changes in working age CTS claims’ figure, with one being aligned to the Medium Term Financial Plan assumptions and one being based on a ‘no change scenario’ in relation to the existing Council Tax Reduction Scheme. It was also clarified that these were only two of a number of potential scenarios and that the appropriate value could only be calculated once a decision on the 2024/25 Council Tax Reduction Scheme was taken. It was also noted that, in advance of the 5 December Cabinet meeting, the second phase of public consultation on the Council Tax Reduction Scheme would close on 26 November.
In response to questions, officers agreed to work up tax base calculations for each of the Council Tax Reduction Scheme calculations that had been consulted on with a view to these being included in the report(s) to be submitted to Cabinet/Full Council.
3. In response to further questions, officers agreed to supply an additional note to members with further detail about the factors taken into account and process followed in estimating the collection rate for 2024/25. Members noted that a challenging target had been set for 2024/25 (in-year collection rate set at 96% with arrears collection at 2%) taking account of previous years’ forecasting and the lived experience in tackling arrears. Members though expressed a degree of caution/reservation on the proposed target, especially in terms of whether the 2% arrears target was perhaps over-optimistic, given the ongoing cost-of-living and other pressures which may affect the collection rate. Members noted also that any surplus or deficit in the collection fund for 2024/25 would be carried forward and would impact on the general fund in the following financial year.
4. It was noted that, depending on the decision that was taken on the Council Tax Reduction Scheme, in the next year (i.e. 2024/25) a number of residents (previously exempted from a requirement to pay) may be required to pay a contribution to Council Tax. In that scenario, officers would ensure clear communications about payment requirements, also offering assistance/advice to residents where appropriate through outreach work.
The Commission RESOLVED:
- To note the report and the above information.