From 1 April 2013 Thanet District Council will be changing the support it provides to Council Tax benefit claimants.
That’s the news following a Council meeting last night (Thursday 6 December) which saw Councillors approve a new Council Tax support scheme for Thanet.
The new scheme, which was initially given the go ahead by Cabinet members on 8 November, will introduce the following changes:
There will be no change to Council Tax benefit provided to pensioners (which is a requirement from government) and there will also be change to Council Tax exemptionfor properties undergoing major structural repair.
The new scheme was required following a decision by national government to abolish Council Tax benefit in its current form. Instead, every council that collects Council Tax is now required to create and run their own local 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.
Cabinet Member for Financial Services, Cllr Rick Everitt said: “We’ve been very clear from the outset that we don’t welcome this new legislation.
“Although we’ve raised some serious concerns about the potential impact this could have on some of the poorest people in Thanet, national government has imposed the changes on all local councils that collect Council Tax, and stripped back the funding to deliver this.
“Given that we don’t have a choice, we’ve worked hard to develop a scheme which we feel will minimize the risk to the most vulnerable people, and those on the lowest incomes, as far as we possibly can.
“Our new scheme will 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. Taking this action means we’ll be introducing cuts to benefits between 5-6%. Cuts as high as 20% are being proposed in other areas, which would be completely 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 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.”