Council tax changes will hit low earners and unemployed
Low income families and people who are out of work will see a rise in their council tax bill of more than £200 this year after Harborough District Council agreed changes to the benefits system.
It comes after a Government decision to reduce the benefits grant it gives local authorities each year by 10 per cent.
The council says it has to make up the shortfall and has introduced a benefits cap of 85 per cent for council tax benefits claimants of working age.
Under the present scheme, people on low income or who are out of work get a deduction on their council tax of up to 100 per cent.
Under the new scheme - set to be introduced on April 1 - they will have to pay at least 15 per cent.
If council tax remains frozen, the average Band D householder currently receiving 100 per cent council tax relief will have to pay an extra £224 a year.
However that figure will rise if council tax goes up as expected.
The move will affect about 1,600 people across the district, the council said.
Pensioners will not be affected by any of the changes.
A ‘discretionary discount fund’ will also be set up offering short-term help to anyone suffering severe hardship as a result of the changes, with decisions on whether to award help made on a case-by-case basis.
The Harborough and Lutterworth branches of the Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) have already expressed concerns over the move, which they say will impact on some of the poorest people in our community.
The council says a consultation held last year into the changes showed more than 50 per cent of the 130 people who responded agreed everyone except pensioners should contribute toward their council tax bill.
Council leader Mike Rook said: “We are getting less money from national government to fund the benefits we give out.
“By incentivising people back into work it will ease the benefits burden on the ordinary taxpayer. We need a scheme which is affordable and sustainable for this district, while seeking to protect the most vulnerable.
“This is why a discretionary fund has been created to help those who fit the criteria and may require temporary assistance based on their particular circumstances.”
A number of other changes to council tax will be introduced on April 1, including:
* Property owners, whose property is unoccupied and undergoing repairs, will now get a 50 per cent discount for 12 months instead of a full discount.
* Property owners, whose property is unoccupied but not undergoing repairs, will only get a 100 per cent discount for one month instead of up to six months under the current scheme.
* Changes to council tax benefit are part of a wider raft of welfare reforms which also includes changes to the way housing Bbnefit is calculated based on under occupancy – otherwise known as ‘the bedroom tax’.
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