Changes to Council Tax and Council Tax Benefit
Press Release: 27/11/2012
The Government is planning to abolish Council Tax Benefit, and has asked councils across the country to develop their own schemes to replace it. The funding for this scheme will be reduced by 10%. However, in real terms this equates to a reduction for this Council of 12%.
The Government has made clear its intention that no pensioner will be worse off when Council Tax Benefit is abolished and future eligible pensioners will have the same level of support as existing eligible pensioners.
The Council wants to protect its most vulnerable customers and offer a level of stability at this stage. A consultation on the proposed options, where over 850 responses were received, highlighted the level of financial difficulty that could arise if benefit recipients had to pay a percentage of Council Tax from April 2013.
Despite the cut in Government funding for this scheme, Winchester City Council is not only to maintain the present level of support for applicants from April 2013, but also wants the scheme to support people who are in work and so is proposing that it will increase the levels of money you can earn before you start to lose Council Tax Support.
The Council may have to review the situation for April 2014 when the wider impact of welfare benefit changes being made by the Government is known, but will make every effort to prevent unnecessary disruption.
Discounts on second homes and vacant properties will also be reduced, not only to help support funding for more vulnerable residents, but also to encourage people not to leave properties empty for long periods of time.
Cllr Stephen Godfrey, Portfolio Holder for Finance and Administration said,
“The Council is faced with some difficult decisions as the Government tackles the national deficit. We saw an excellent level of response to our recent consultation and are proposing a scheme which, despite a 25% real terms reduction in funding for support of working age claimants, protects people who are being affected the most by benefit changes. We are also seeking to improve the scheme by making it easier for claimants to take up jobs without losing all of their benefits. We believe that by abolishing discounts for second homes and changing discounts for vacant properties from April 2013 we will be able to support the most vulnerable in our district whilst discouraging people from leaving homes empty."
“We will have to keep a close eye on this new scheme, as the Council Tax payer will be bearing the full cost, The impact of wider changes to the benefit system will become clearer over the next few months and years and we may be forced to change the system to support people in need.”
At a meeting of its Cabinet committee on 5 December the following recommendations will be considered.
- abolish the 10% discount awarded in respect of second homes (furnished properties that are no ones main home)
- introduce a discount of 100% for a period of up to twelve months following the abolition of exemption class A for ‘uninhabitable’ properties (properties where no one lives, are substantially unfurnished and require major repair work or are undergoing major repair work or structural alteration to render it habitable) which are currently awarded for up to twelve months
- introduce a discount of 100% for a period of up to one month following the abolition of the exemption class. This exemption can currently be awarded for up to six months. This exemption and the new discount will still relate to vacant properties (properties where no one lives which are substantially unfurnished)
- abolish the 50% discount for properties that remain vacant (properties where no one lives which are substantially unfurnished). This discount is currently awarded after the six month exemption class referred to above.
- base the new local Council Tax Support Scheme on the existing Council Tax Benefit scheme calculation
- increase income disregards for working age claimants so that single claimants have the first £10 of earned income disregarded and others have the first £25 of earned income disregarded
Further information about the recommendations and their impacts can be seen in the Cabinet report on our website www.winchester.gov.uk/meetings/details/1044.