Financial Settlement: Technical Consultation (England)
The Secretary of State Communities, Rt Hon James Brokenshire MP. launched the annual technical consultation on the local government finance settlement on 24 July 2018 and is calling for submissions from stakeholders by 18 September 2018.
The technical consultation reiterates this government’s intention for the 2019 to 2020 settlement to confirm the final year of the 2016 to 2017 multi-year settlement, and to implement Council Tax referendum principles as announced last year.
The multi-year settlement offered local authorities greater certainty over elements of their funding across the spending period and was accepted by 97% of local authorities.
The government proposes to allocate funding in 2019 to 2020 in accordance with the agreed methodology announced by the Secretary of State in 2016 to 2017, which ensures that local councils delivering similar services receive a similar percentage change in settlement core funding for those services.
Finally, ministers have noted the strength of feeling in local government around the issue of ‘negative Revenue Support Grant’ and this technical consultation sets out the governments preferred approach to resolving the issue in 2019 to 2020.
The consultation paper can be found at https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/local-government-finance-settlement-2019-to-2020-technical-consultation
Barclay Implementation: A consultation on non-domestic rates reform [Scotland]
The Scottish Government invites comments until 17th September on its plans to implement the recommendations arising from the Barclay Review of Non-Domestic Rates. The electronic link can be found at: https://consult.gov.scot/local-government-and-communities/non-domestic-rates/
Work and Pensions Committee Re-launches Benefit Cap Inquiry
In February 2017 the Work and Pensions Committee launched an inquiry into the Benefit cap, which could not continue due to the General Election. The Committee is now re-launching the inquiry. In written evidence to that inquiry before it stalled, the DWP said the benefit cap pursues three aims:-
- Secure the economic well-being of the country by reducing spending on benefits and encouraging positive behavioural changes.
- Impose a reasonable limit on the total amount which a household can receive in welfare benefits to promote a fair and healthy society and maintain public confidence in the welfare system.
- Incentivise work to reduce poverty and increase economic prosperity.
The cap is intended to incentivise behavioural change amongst claimants and secure savings for the Exchequer. The re-opened inquiry seeks to establish to what extent is it achieving that. To what extent has claimant behaviour responded to the cap, through moving into work, moving house, etc? What effect does the lower cap have on incentives, what are the barriers to behavioural change and how can they be overcome? Does the cap address high underlying rates of housing benefit and child maintenance in a fair way? Are there unintended consequences (either positive or negative) of the cap?
The benefit cap limits the total amount of benefits and tax credits payable to a working-age household. It was first announced in the 2010 Spending Review and was rolled out in 2013. The cap originally limited payments to £500 per week (£26,000 p.a.) for a family and £350 per week (£18,200 a year) for a single person with no children.
In the Summer Budget 2015, the Government reduced the cap to £442.31 per week or £23k for a household in Greater London, £15,410 for a single person, and £384.62 per week or £ 20k for a household living outside Greater London, £13,400 a year for a single person.
The rollout of the lower cap in winter of 2016-17 caused the total number of affected households to over treble from 20,000 in November 2016 to over 70,000 five months later in March 2017. As of February 2018, 64,800 households are affected. The lower cap has also increased the geographical spread of affected claimants.
Affected households are typically those with larger numbers of children, and higher housing costs. Exemptions apply for in-work households, those with certain disability or incapacity benefit entitlements (PIP, DLA, ESA support group) or recipients of Carer’s Allowance, Guardian’s Allowance and UC carer’s element.
The deadline to respond is 10 September 2018. The link to the response page can be found at https://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/work-and-pensions-committee/inquiries/parliament-2017/benefit-cap-17-19/
Universal Credit and Childcare Costs
The Work and Pensions Committee invites evidence from any and all interested parties on any or all of the following questions. Your evidence will be incorporated into the conclusions of this phase of the inquiry:-
- How does access to childcare support under Universal Credit compare to the legacy system and the new Tax-Free Childcare system?
- Is the available support sufficient to cover locally available childcare costs? Does it reflect actual childcare costs and if not, how should it be updated?
- How do upfront payments and the structure of reimbursements under UC affect low-income parents, including in their decisions to access childcare and take up work?
- How is monthly reporting and assessment working in practice and how could it be improved?
- Are existing sources of support—including the Flexible Support Fund and budgeting advances—available to low0income parents faced with upfront childcare costs adequate? If not, why not?
- Are claimants made aware of the support made available to them and are work coaches adequately trained to give appropriate guidance on this issue?
- How could the Government improve the system for supporting low-income parents’ access to support for childcare under Universal Credit?
If you wish to submit evidence to this strand of the inquiry, the deadline to do so is 5 September 2018. The link to the response page can be found at https://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/work-and-pensions-committee/inquiries/parliament-2017/inquiry/
Removal of the Sanction of Imprisonment for Non-payment of Council Tax [Wales]
The Welsh Government is consulting on removal of the sanction of imprisonment for non-payment of council tax. The paper can be found at
Deadline for comments is 3rd September 2018.
The paper asks for views on the two questions raised in the document:
Q1: Do you agree that the sanction of imprisonment for non-payment of council tax should be removed?
Q2: Do you have any other comments regarding this consultation?
Consultation on Insolvency and Corporate Governance: Government Response
The Government previously sought views, from March to June 2018, on improvements to corporate governance within companies which are in or are approaching insolvency. The Government’s outcome response to the consultation was published on 26 August 2018 and can be found at https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/736163/ICG_-_Government_response_doc_-_24_Aug_clean_version__with_Minister_s_photo_and_signature__AC.pdf
The Government will take steps to strengthen the insolvency framework in cases of major corporate failure by:
- taking forward measures to ensure greater accountability of directors in group companies when selling subsidiaries in distress
- legislating to enhance existing recovery powers of insolvency practitioners in relation to value extraction schemes
- legislating to give the Insolvency Service the necessary powers to investigate directors of dissolved companies
- when they are suspected of having acted in breach of their legal obligations
The Government will also create alternative procedures to support business rescue
The Government will take forward the following actions:
- strengthen transparency requirements around complex group structures
- enhance the role of shareholder stewardship
- strengthen the UK’s framework in relation to dividend payments
- bring forward proposals to improve board-room effectiveness
Where necessary further consultation will be undertaken.
Consultation on Moving Claimants to UC from other Working Age Benefits
Responses were invited by 20 August 2018 regarding the consultation on moving claimants to Universal Credit (UC) from other working age benefits.
The consultation documents are at https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/moving-claimants-to-universal-credit-from-other-working-age-benefits.
The associated press release is at https://www.gov.uk/government/news/government-proposal-to-move-claimants-on-legacy-benefits-to-universal-credit-consultation-announced
The Institute’s response can be found here
Tackling Avoidance of Non-domestic Rates in Wales
The Welsh Government is consulting on:
- ways to improve the accuracy and timeliness of information provided about ratepayers’ circumstances
- whether the arrangements for empty property rates and relief should change to reduce avoidance
- reducing abuse of mandatory charitable relief by bogus charities
- whether a general anti-avoidance rule could be developed for non-domestic rates in Wales
- non-legislative measures to improve compliance such as joint working between agencies and resources to aid investigation.
Closing date for responses was 27th June 2018. The consultation can be found here
The IRRV response can be found here
National Audit Office: Report: Rolling Out Universal Credit
In the first half of 2018 the National Audit Office invited submissions of evidence in respect of its 2018 report-in-progress on the rolling out of Universal Credit. Details of the invitation can be found at: https://www.nao.org.uk/work-in-progress/rolling-out-universal-credit/
The Institute submitted various documents to the report process. The NAO report can be found at https://www.nao.org.uk/report/rolling-out-universal-credit/
Fair Funding Review: a review of relative needs and resources [England]
This consultation seeks views on the approach to measuring the relative needs of local authorities. The closing date for comments is 12th March 2018 and the paper can be found at: https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/fair-funding-review-a-review-of-relative-needs-and-resources
Business Rates in Multi-occupied Properties (re. Woolway v. Mazars) [England]
Consultation on reinstating the practice of the Valuation Office Agency prior to the decision of the Supreme Court in Woolway (VO) v Mazars. Consultation closes on 23rd February 2018. The consultation paper can be found at:https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/business-rates-in-multi-occupied-properties
The Institute response can be found here
Default County Court Judgments [England and Wales]
A consultation on ensuring the County Court Judgments process works fairly, for both creditors and debtors. The closing date for comments is 21st February 2018. The consultation paper can be found at: https://consult.justice.gov.uk/digital-communications/default-county-court-judgments-2/supporting_documents/defaultcountycourtjudgmentsconsultation.pdf
The Institute response can be found here
Welsh Revenue Authority Draft Charter
Views sought on a draft Charter for the Welsh Revenue Authority (WRA), the first ever Welsh Tax Authority. Consultation is open until 13th February 2018. The consultation can be found at https://consultations.gov.wales/consultations/welsh-revenue-authority-draft-charter
The 2017-18 Small Business Rates Relief Threshold Changes - Implementation Methodology
This consultation covers proposals for the applicable methodology in calculating compensation for the Small Business Rates Relief threshold changes of 2017/18. The consultation is open until 17 January 2018.
The consultation paper can be found here
The Institute's response is here
Breathing Space: Call for Evidence
The government is issuing this call for evidence to gain further insight from the debt advice sector and creditors about how best to design, implement, administer and monitor a six-week breathing space scheme and statutory debt management plan.
The call for evidence covers the following, broad, topics:
- how to access and then enter a six-week breathing space
- how a breathing space could work for creditors and debtors
- how to best design a statutory debt management plan
The informal consultation closes on 16 January 2018. The consultation documentation can be found here:
The IRRV response can be found here
Provisional Local Government Finance Settlement 2018 to 2019: Consultation [England]
This consultation seeks views on proposals for the local government finance settlement for 2018 to 2019 and for the approach to future local government finance settlements. The consultation closes on 16th January 2018 and the paper can be found at:
Reforming the Non-Domestic Rates Appeal System in Wales
Consultation is open until 9th January 2018 on Welsh Government proposals to change the Non-Domestic Rates Appeals system. The consultation examines proposals to reform: the registration for the appeals process; the time periods for each stage; the provision of information; backdating appeals; and fines (civil penalties). It also includes proposals concerning the introduction and level of fees for appeals and the role of the Valuation Tribunal for Wales in the appeals process
The consultation paper can be found at: https://consultations.gov.wales/consultations/reforming-non-domestic-rates-appeals-system-wales
The Institute's response can be found here
Parliamentary Work and Pensions Committee Inquiry into Universal Credit Roll-out
The Parliamentary Work and Pensions Select Committee held an Inquiry in the Autumn of 2017 into the DWP's preparedness for the scheduled acceleration of the rollout of full service of Universal Credit from October 2017. Topics to be covered included waits for payments, advance payments, impact on and communication with local authorities and landlords, Alternative Payment Arrangements, the effects of planned Jobcentre closures and the proposed flexible arrangements in Scotland.
The original deadline for written submissions was mid-October, although this extended to 9th January to allow for evidence to be submitted regarding UC in relation to self-employment.
Funding for Supported Housing: two consultations [England]
The document containing the policy statement and the two consultation papers can be found at https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/funding-for-supported-housing-two-consultations .
Closing date for response is 23rd January 2018.
Funding for supported housing is complex and comes from a variety of sources, with ‘housing’ costs and ‘support’ costs being met separately. This is important in allowing people to access the right level of support in their own homes, and in supporting people to live independently.
Around £4.12 billion of Housing Benefit is spent on meeting housing related costs (rent and eligible service charges) for supported housing – representing around 17 percent of total Housing Benefit expenditure. Around a further £2.05 billion from a variety of sources, including local authority adult social care and housing and homelessness funding, covers support and care services. Around 79 percent of older people in supported housing claim Housing Benefit to help them meet housing costs, as do 97 percent of working -age people in supported housing.
The government has developed a three-pronged approach to funding supported housing in England. This reflects the needs of diverse client groups through a diverse set of funding models:
A: ‘Sheltered Rent’ – for those in sheltered and extra care housing
- For sheltered and extra care housing, often for older people but also including working-age tenants
- Introducing a ‘Sheltered Rent’, a type of social rent, which keeps funding for sheltered and extra care housing in the welfare system.
- Better cost control, as the social housing regulator will use existing powers to regulate gross eligible rent (rent inclusive of eligible service charges) charged by registered providers. Views are sought on the appropriate level to set gross eligible rent at.
- This model will come in to effect from 2020.
- This will provide the certainty providers need in order to invest in future supply, whilst providing enhanced cost controls and ensuring value for money for the taxpayer, and good outcomes for tenants.
B: Local Grant Fund – for short-term and transitional supported housing
- For short-term and transitional supported housing – including supported housing for homeless people with support needs, people fleeing domestic abuse, people receiving support for drug and alcohol misuse, offenders and young people at risk.
- 100% of this provision will be commissioned at a local level, funded locally through a ring-fenced grant, and underpinned by a new local planning and oversight regime. This means all the funding for housing costs (including rent and eligible service charges) that were previously met from Housing Benefit, will instead be allocated to local authorities to fund services that meet the needs of their local areas.
- This model will come in to effect from 2020.
- As per the recommendations of the Joint Select Committee inquiry, this removes short-term accommodation costs from the welfare system and provides local areas with more oversight and control over the provision in their areas.
- An individual’s entitlement for help with their housing costs (through Housing Benefit or the housing cost element of Universal Credit) will be unchanged.
C: Welfare System (Housing Benefit/Universal Credit) – for long-term supported housing
- For long-term supported housing – including supported housing for those with learning disabilities, mental ill health and physical disabilities, as well as highly specialised supported housing.
- As Local Housing Allowance rates will no longer be applied, 100% of housing costs (rent inclusive of eligible service charges) will continue to be funded as at present through the welfare system (subject to the application of the existing housing benefit/Universal Credit rules). The Government will work with the sector to develop and deliver improvements to cost control, quality and outcomes.
The Institute's response to the consultation paper on Housing Costs for Sheltered and Extra Care Accommodation can be found here
The Institute's response to the consultation paper on Housing Costs for Short-term Supported Accommodation can be found here