Wales is leading the way in developing a progressive, fairer, more citizen-focused council tax system, but there is still more we can do.
That was the message from the Finance Minister Rebecca Evans at the Institute of Revenues, Rating and Valuation (IRRV) conference.
In April, the Welsh Government introduced new legislation to exempt all care leavers from council tax until their 25th birthday, helping them to make a successful transition into adulthood and independent living.
The sanction of imprisonment for non-payment of council tax has also been removed, with the Welsh Government recognising that getting into debt should not be a crime. Despite initial concerns, this legislation is now widely supported with calls for the UK government to follow our approach.
Alongside new legislation, our Council Tax Reduction Scheme provides £244 million each year to ensure vulnerable households in Wales are protected from increases in their council tax bills. A new Council Tax Protocol for Wales developed with local authorities and the WLGA is also helping to change the approach and management of council tax debt in Wales.
Addressing an audience of local authorities, benefits professionals and enforcement agencies, the minister thanked everyone for their contributions and shared her ambitions for the future.
Rebecca Evans said:
“I am examining the options for medium to longer term reform of local taxes to ensure they are designed to best meet the needs of Wales. My intention is to take a progressive, fair and transparent approach towards local taxation which continues to provide funding for vital local services.
“There is significant research into how local services should be funded in Wales, in the rest of UK, and internationally. Much of the discussion has focused on local taxation and its key purpose as a means of raising revenue, but there is some interest in the extent to which local taxes might be used as a lever to meet various economic and social aims.
“We have commissioned external experts to undertake research into the impact of Universal Credit on the Council Tax Reduction Scheme and rent arrears in Wales. It is not right that decisions taken by the UK government about welfare benefits can have an impact on local taxation in Wales, an area of responsibility which has been devolved since 1999. These findings will be used to inform our development of the scheme.
“We are also exploring the impact a revaluation exercise could have on Wales’ domestic property tax-base if a decision is taken to carry one out. We expect the findings of this exercise to be available early next year.”