Mark Drakeford, Cabinet Secretary for Finance
Today, I am publishing a consultation on providing exemptions from council tax for care leavers.
In our programme for government, Taking Wales Forward 2016-2021, the Welsh Government committed to improving the fairness of council tax. I have considered the various ways in which the council tax system could be changed to ensure we deliver on this commitment for households in Wales. We published an update on our work on 24 October. One strand has been looking at how we can make council tax fairer for vulnerable households.
I am keen to ensure the Welsh Government and local authorities are doing everything we can to support care leavers and enable their successful transition into adulthood and independent living.
In March 2017, I asked councils to consider using their existing discretionary powers to grant a full dispensation from council tax for all care leavers, regardless of their individual circumstances.
In October 2017, Torfaen County Borough Council became the first council in Wales to exempt care leavers from paying council tax. I have been pleased to see the progress made by those councils which have since introduced their own schemes.
The case for exempting care leavers from liability for council tax has been widely accepted and an approach based on local authorities’ use of their discretionary powers has been tested.
However, the degree of support available to care leavers across Wales is inconsistent and discretionary powers may not provide a long term, reliable statutory basis for the change we wish to see. I therefore believe that legislation is required to rectify these matters.
Today marks the start of a 6-week consultation with, local authorities, voluntary organisations, taxpayers and, of course, care leavers themselves. The consultation seeks views on the adoption and implementation of a consistent approach through the introduction of a statutory exemption. It is an important opportunity to make our council tax system fairer and I am keen to hear everyone’s views and to work with stakeholders to improve our approach.
Subject to the outcome of the consultation, I aim to bring forward legislation to exempt care leavers from council tax from 1 April 2019.