I've been trying for a while to find the annual circular stating how much authorities would be getting from the government for Discretionary Housing Payments. I have finally found it. This was a lesson in picking your search terms...
For 2013/4 NCC will get £696,031, an increase from last year's £274,621 (although this included a one-off carry-over of £62,741 from 2011/2, this was apparently quite common). This means that, in theory, NCC could pay out up to £1.74m although, on past experience, the chances of them going over the level of government funding (or even reaching it) is quite slim. I don't know how much they actually paid out last year.
This year they have to deal with the 'bedroom tax' which will upset the apple cart somewhat. Conversely, although the replacement of Council Tax Benefit with a local scheme means an effective cut in support of around 18% for those of working age, the DHP scheme will not be available to help. Bad news for tenants but a slight lifting of pressure on the DHP budget.
Interestingly though, according to a report from NCVS on a briefing from Cllr Liversidge (available here), NCC are setting up an 'emergency fund' for those unable to pay their Council Tax as a result of the change. I only heard about this today and have absolutely no idea of what's planned, how it's being paid for or why the money for it wasn't used to offset further the cuts in Council Tax support.
Anyway, what is clear is that there is an overall cut in support and a much increased role for 'discretionary' support to partially fill the gap. Interestingly, the DWP has announced it will now be monitoring the administration of DHPs from now on, something the Audit Commission never got round to doing. Will this make a difference, one wonders?