A scheme which allows vulnerable residents in County Durham to pay less council tax has been extended for a further year. 

Councillors have agreed to extend its council tax reduction scheme in a bid to protect thousands of people impacted by rising household costs. 

Durham County Council is the only local authority in the North East to have retained entitlement levels for council tax support within the Local Council Tax Reduction Scheme. 

The policy has been used to protect vulnerable residents at a time when welfare reform changes, and more recently the pressure on household incomes from cost-of-living increases have had a significant adverse impact.

Figures from the local authority show there are currently 54,100 applicants in the region, of which 20,600 (38 per cent) are of pension age and 33,500 (62 per cent) are of working age. 

Almost 80 per cent of working age claimants currently receive 100 per cent discount, with support forecast to be circa £63.5m in 2023/24. 

The scheme was extended following unanimous support from councillors.

Cllr Richard Bell, cabinet member for finance, said: “We should be proud, as a council, that we are continuing to do that, which is such an important benefit for people across this county especially given the inflationary times we are living through at present. 

“We must remember that this decision comes at a cost in terms of lost revenues compared with virtually every other council in the country, but on balance it’s the right decision for next year.”

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The opposition Labour Party also supported the move.

Cllr Rob Crute, deputy leader, said: “It’s disappointing that we have to come back here every year to put things right that went wrong 10 years ago, when the government pulled the rug out from under our feet and passed the buck over for council tax benefits to local authorities. 

“However, we are where we are, and I’m happy to endorse the extension of the local council tax reduction scheme for at least a further year.”