Friday, 9 November 2012

Cabinet recommends new Council Tax Support Scheme

Cabinet has given its seal of approval on a new Council Tax support scheme for Thanet which seeks to minimize the impact on vulnerable people and those on lowest incomes.
This was at a Cabinet meeting held last night (Thursday 8 November).
The scheme will now go to Full Council in December for final approval and if agreed, will be implemented from 1 April 2013.
This follows national government legislation to abolish Council Tax benefit in its current form and places new responsibility on every council that collects Council Tax to create and run their own local support scheme.
In addition, the government announced there would be less funding available under the new scheme. This means that Thanet District Council had to work within a budget that has been reduced by approximately £2.2 million.
Thanet District Council consulted with the public for eight weeks on a new scheme it designed alongside Canterbury City Council and Dover District Council. The main proposals in this East Kent scheme were to:
  • reduce working age Council Tax benefit awards by between 5% and 6%;
  • remove the Council Tax discount for ‘second home’ owners (currently 10%);
  • remove the Council Tax exemption for empty and unfurnished properties (currently 100%);
  • discontinue second adult rebate for working age claimants.
It also proposed:
  • no change to Council Tax benefit for pensioners (approximately 45% of claimants and a requirement from government);
  • no change to Council Tax exemption for properties undergoing major structural repair.
In Thanet, 385 responses were received to the consultation. Although feedback was split over whether respondents either agreed or disagreed with the new scheme overall, the majority (70.9%) agreed that the council should aim to keep benefit reductions as low as possible to protect the vulnerable and people on the lowest incomes.
Cabinet Member for Financial Services, Cllr Rick Everitt, said: “Firstly I’d like to thank everyone who took the time to respond to the consultation.
“We do not welcome this legislation and remain very concerned about its potential impact on some of the poorest people in Thanet.
“We’ve worked hard to develop a scheme that will minimize the risk to the most vulnerable people, and those on the lowest incomes, as far as we possibly can, which is a message we received loud and clear from local people.
“We’re proposing to reduce the financial impact on those on benefit by removing some of the current Council Tax discounts and exemptions we provide to those with empty or second homes, which we believe is morally the right thing to do.
“This has allowed us to look at cuts to benefits of between 5-6%, whereas elsewhere cuts as high as 20% are being proposed, which would be totally unacceptable.
“Although our scheme will mean that working age Council Tax benefit claimants – most of whom are likely to be in part-time or low-paid work - will still have to pay more Council Tax than they have before, and many will pay for the first time, we believe that applying the changes suggested in our scheme, is the fairest available approach.
“It also ensures that there is no additional burden on the typical council taxpayer as a result of the changes. They will not be charged any more to make up the shortfall from the government.”         

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