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Council Tax questions and answers

What is Council Tax?

The Council Tax provides part of the money that is needed to administer the services that our local communities need, for example:

  • schools

  • policing

  • providing support to the elderly and vulnerable

  • the maintenance of parks and open spaces

  • getting rid of our rubbish and keeping our streets clean

Your Council Tax is a local tax, based on the value of your property. It helps to finance the services provided by:

Valuation bands

The Valuation Office Agency is responsible for valuing and placing properties into one of the eight Council Tax valuation bands, which are based on the open market value at 1st April 1991.

Payment bands

The amount of Council Tax payable for each band is set each year and outlines the amount payable for each Council Tax band.

How to pay

Please see the information on the How to pay page.

Discounts

Living alone

The full Council Tax bill assumes that there are two adults living in a property. If only one adult (aged 18 or over) lives there as their main home, the bill will be reduced by 25%.

Eligibility for discounts

Certain categories of people will not be counted when assessing the number of adults living in a property. Some examples are:

  • a student lives with only one other adult

  • a person with a severe mental impairment lives with only one other adult

  • a person has moved to live in a care home, leaving only one other adult living in the property

The categories are listed below:

  • In prison or detained by a court order

  • Severely mentally impaired

  • 18 or 19 year olds who are still at school or have recently left school

  • Full time students, including student nurses

  • Government supported trainees under 25

  • Apprentices earning up to £195 per week

  • Long-term residential patients in hospital or care home

  • Carers (in some cases)

  • Monks and Nuns

  • Members of visiting armed forces, of certain international and defence organisations or have diplomatic privileges and immunities

  • Staying in certain hostels or night shelters

If a discount has been awarded it is shown on your bill. If no discount is shown, you can apply using the discount application form.

If your bill indicates that a discount has been allowed, you must tell the Council of any change of circumstances which affects your entitlement within 21 days of the change occurring. If you fail to do so, you may be required to pay a penalty.

Secondary homes

At a meeting on 16 January 2013 the Council resolved that from 1 April 2013 there would be no discount available where a property is unoccupied but remains furnished or is occupied as a second home.

Secondary residence due to employment

A council taxpayer can get 50% discount in the Council Tax for a second home. This is if they are liable to pay Council Tax on their main and secondary home, because the property is job related.

A dwelling is job-related if it is provided for them by reason of their employment, in any of the following cases:

  • Where it is necessary for the proper performance of the duties of employment that the employee should live in that dwelling.

  • Where the dwelling is provided for the better performance of the duties of the employment, and it is one of the kinds of employment in the case of which it is customary for employers to provide dwellings to employees.

  • Where, there being a special threat to the employee’s security, special security arrangements are in force and the employee resides in the dwelling as part of those arrangements.

Whilst it may often be convenient for a person to live local to their work, the property must be provided by an employer under a contract of employment and they must be required to live in that particular property in order to qualify for the 50% discount.

Students and Council Tax

If all the adults living in a property are full time students then an exemption from council tax will apply. The exemption in not automatic you must apply for it by downloading an application form here.

If only one person in the property is not a full time student a 25% discount will apply.

If more than one person in the property is not a full time student then no discount will apply.

Empty properties

From 1 April 2013 the government abolished the exemption from Council Tax for unoccupied and unfurnished properties. At a meeting on 16 January 2013 the Council resolved that from 1 April 2013 there would be no discount available where a property is unoccupied and unfurnished.

Exemptions from Council Tax

Certain occupied and unoccupied properties are exempt from paying Council Tax, for example if a property is left empty when the owner has permanently moved into a care home.

My property is undergoing repair

From 1 April 2013 the government abolished the exemption from Council Tax for properties undergoing structural alteration or major repair to render them habitable. At a meeting on 16 January 2013 the Council resolved that from 1 April 2013 there would be no discount available where a property is undergoing structural alteration or major repair to render it habitable.

Long term empty home premium

An additional amount of Council Tax will become payable if your property has been empty for more than two years. The long term empty premium is 50% meaning that once a property has been empty for more than two years 150% Council Tax becomes payable by the owner at that time. The empty period starts from the date that the property first became empty and may include a period before you became the owner of the property.

Reductions due to disability

The disabled reduction scheme aims to ensure that disabled people do not pay more Council Tax because they live in a larger dwelling than needed if they were not disabled. Having a disability does not automatically entitle you to a reduction.

In summary the requirements for a reduction are that the property must be the main residence of at least one disabled person and it must have at least one of the following:

  • an additional bathroom or kitchen
  • an extra room (not being a bathroom. kitchen or toilet)
  • enough space for the use of a wheelchair indoors

The room or wheelchair must also be of major importance, due to the nature and extent of their disability. The extra room does not need to be specifically built to qualify for a reduction. It can be an existing room, providing there is a strong link between that and the person's disability.

If your home is eligible, your bill will be reduced to that of a property in the valuation band immediately below the band shown on the valuation list. If your home is in band A, the reduction will be 1/9th of Band D.

If your bill indicates that a discount has been allowed, you must tell the Council of any change of circumstances affecting your entitlement within 21 days of the change occurring. If you fail to do so, you may be required to pay a penalty.

Annexes and Council Tax

There are several exemptions or discounts that may apply to an annex

If the annex is unoccupied (in as much as no-one’s lives in it) and there is a planning restriction which prevents it for being let out separately from the main property an exemption may apply under Class T. Please contact the Council with full details to apply.

If the annex is occupied by:

  • a dependent relative that is over the age of 65
  • a person who is severely mentally impaired
  • a person who is disabled

An exemption under Class W may apply - download an application form  (PDF)

From 1 April 2014 a 50% discount is available where either:

  • the annex is occupied by a close relative of the Council taxpayer of the main property
  • the annex is used as part of the main home of the Council taxpayer of the main property

Download a family annex application  (PDF)

Low income Council Tax support

From 1 April 2013 Council Tax benefit was replaced by a new local Council Tax Reduction Scheme. You may be entitled to a Council Tax Support Discount if you or your partner is on a low income, even if you are working.

Council Tax Support discount will normally only be granted from the date a valid claim is received. To avoid losing any entitlement, please ensure that you apply promptly.

See Council Tax Benefit and Council Tax Support home page

If your bill indicates that a Council Tax Support discount has been allowed, you must tell the Council of any change of circumstances which affects your entitlement within 21 days of the change occurring. If you fail to do so, you may be required to pay a penalty.

Refusal to pay Council Tax

You must ensure that the Council receives your payments by the due dates shown on your bill. In the interests of all Council Taxpayers, the Council will take recovery action if payments are not received. This will result in the cancellation of the installment facility, leading to legal action for the recovery of the total amount outstanding.

Such action will incur an extra cost of £82, relating to issuing a Court Summons and obtaining a Liability Order. If the Council is granted a Liability Order by the Magistrates, they may seek to recover the outstanding debt from you by an attachment to your earnings or benefits. Your case may get passed to an enforcement agent (previously called a bailiff), who may take control of your goods to secure payment of the debt.

If your case gets passed to an enforcement agent, an extra fee of £75 will be due immediately. If the enforcement agent should have to visit you then a further fee of at least £235 will be payable.

It is important that you contact the Council  if you are experiencing problems in paying your Council Tax, in order to keep any additional costs to a minimum. Contact the Council or telephone 01234 718079.

The Council will take recovery action in line with its agreed Fair Debt Collection policy (PDF).

Informing the Council about a change of address

Informing the Council I am no longer liable for an exemption or discount

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