East Devon District Council

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Policy Council Tax Discretionary Discount and Reduction Policy

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5. Exceptional Hardship Fund (EHF) awards

3.7.1 Every council taxpayer who is entitled to Council Tax Support and who has a shortfall is entitled to make a claim for help from EHF. It is normally a short-term emergency fund, whilst the council taxpayer seeks alternative solutions.

3.7.2 The main features of the fund are that:

  • EHF awards are discretionary
  • Council Taxpayers do not have a statutory right to an award
  • EHF awards are not a payment of Council Tax Support
  • Council Tax Support must be in payment in the week in which an EHF award is made
  • we may decide that a backdated EHF award is appropriate; which could then settle Council Tax arrears. This would be the only circumstance where the EHF could be used to facilitate payment of Council Tax arrears
  • EHF awards cannot be made to settle arrears of Council Tax unless due to an award of backdated EHF as set out above

3.7.3 EHF cannot be awarded for the following circumstances:

  • Where full Council Tax liability is being met by Council Tax Support.
  • For any other reason, other than to reduce Council Tax liability.
  • Where we consider that there are unnecessary expenses/debts etc and that the council taxpayer has not taken reasonable steps to reduce these.
  • To reduce any Council Tax Support recoverable overpayment.
  • To cover previous years Council Tax arrears.
  • A shortfall caused by a Department for Work and Pensions sanction or suspension has been applied because the council taxpayer has turned down work/interview/training opportunities.

3.7.4 The revenues and benefits service will determine whether or not to make an EHF award, and how much any award might be.

When making this decision the revenues and benefits service will consider the following before making an award:

  • The shortfall between Council Tax Support and Council Tax liability.
  • The steps taken by the council taxpayer to reduce their Council Tax liability.
  • Changing payment methods, reprofiling Council Tax instalments or setting alternative payment arrangements in order to make them affordable.
  • Ensure that all appropriate discounts, exemptions and reductions are granted.
  • Steps taken by the council taxpayer to establish whether they are entitled to other welfare benefits.
  • Steps taken by the council taxpayer in considering and identifying where possible the most economical tariffs for supply of utilities.
  • If a Discretionary Housing Payment has already been awarded to meet a shortfall in rent.
  • The personal circumstances, age and medical circumstances (including ill health and disabilities) of the council taxpayer, their partner and any dependants and any other occupants of the council taxpayer’s home.
  • The difficulty experienced by the council taxpayer, which prohibits them from being able to meet their Council Tax liability, and the likely length of time this difficulty will exist.
  • Shortfalls due to non-dependant deductions.
  • The income and expenditure of the council taxpayer, their partner and any dependants or other occupants of the council taxpayer’s home.
  • How deemed reasonable expenditure exceeds income.
  • All income may be taken into account, including those which are disregarded when awarding Council Tax Support.
  • Any savings or capital that might be held by the council taxpayer or their partner.
  • Other debts outstanding for the council taxpayer and their partner.
  • Whether the council taxpayer has already accessed or is engaging for assistance with budgeting and financial/debt management advice. An EHF award may not be made until the council taxpayer has accepted assistance either from us or a third party, such as the Citizens Advice Bureau or similar organisations, to enable them to manage their finances more effectively, including the termination of non essential expenditure.
  • The exceptional nature of the council taxpayer and/or their family’s circumstances that impact on finances.
  • The length of time they have lived in the property.

The list is not exhaustive and other relevant factors and special circumstances will be considered.

3.7.5 An application for a further EHF award can be made and there will be a review of the application and what actions have been taken since the last award.

3.7.6 An EHF award may be less than the difference between the Council Tax liability and the amount of Council Tax Support paid.