Changes to council tax benefits

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Daventry District Council (DDC) is considering a number of measures to tackle a £440,000 reduction in the central Government grant that pays for Council Tax benefits.

Council Tax Benefit helps people with low income to pay their Council Tax, but as part of its Welfare Reform Act, the Government will end the benefit on March 31, 2013, and replace it with a Council Tax support scheme run by local councils.

However the Government will only fund 90% of the cost of the new scheme, which will result in a shortfall of £440,000 for the Daventry district.

It means that DDC has to draw up its proposals to change the current Council Tax benefit scheme and to alter some discounts and exemptions on empty properties to make the savings.

The Government has said that the changes must not affect the most vulnerable members of society, such as pensioners and disabled people, but should help to create an incentive to get more people into work and achieve the savings.

In order to make the new system as fair as possible to those who claim benefits, DDC has initially identified saving options that would see all 2,300 of the ‘working age’ Council Tax Benefit claimants receive less benefit, the majority between £1 and £3 less per week.

It is also considering changes to certain Council Tax discounts and exemptions for empty properties. For example a homeowner who would currently be exempt from paying Council Tax on a property that is undergoing major repairs for 12 months would only be eligible for a discount of 50% for 6 months under the new proposal.

Members of the Council’s Strategy Group will consider the options at its next meeting on Thursday, September 6. The preferred option will then be subject to public consultation before being considered by Full Council later in the year.

Councillor Ken Melling, Portfolio Holder for Resources at Daventry District Council, said: “Many people may still not be aware that under the Welfare Reform Act from April 2013 Council Tax Benefit will be abolished and replaced by a Council Tax support scheme run and defined by local authorities.

As part of that process we are required to set our own scheme by January 31, 2013, however the Government will only fund 90% of the cost, which means we must find £440,000 to fill the gap.

“We have looked at all our options and aim to make the new system as fair as possible while helping to meet the funding shortfall.

“We want to minimise the hardship for people who claim Council Tax benefit and will make sure that everyone will be able to have their say on the recommendations.”