Council Tax Benefit is changing for working age claimants – be prepared for how changes could affect you

Press Release: 24/09/2012

Consultation

The Government is planning to abolish Council Tax Benefit and reduce funding by 12%; asking councils across the country to develop their own schemes to replace it.

To create a scheme that is as fair as possible, Winchester City Council is consulting with current claimants, residents and relevant groups to see how they feel this would work best. The consultation runs until 12 November.

Council Tax Benefit helps people on a low income to pay their Council Tax and the changes are part of the Government’s wider welfare reform programme.

The new local Council Tax Support scheme has to be in place by 1 April 2013. However, when the Government provides councils with the funding for the new scheme it will be reduced by around 12%. This means that the City Council will have £84,000 less to fund the new scheme.

This shortage in funding means we have to make some difficult decisions about who gets financial support and how much.

The Government has stated that pensioner claimants must be protected from the effects of any changes which means that under the new scheme support for pensioners will remain at the same level as now. The proposed changes will therefore not affect you if you, or your partner, are classed as pensioners for Council Tax Support.

The Council is considering various options to meet the Government’s funding shortfall. These are:

Making working age customers responsible for a percentage of their Council Tax liability (10% or 15%)
Capping the level of benefit to a Band D property for those working age claimants living in properties with a Council Tax band of E, F, G & H
Abolishing the current 10% Council Tax discount for second homes
Abolishing the current 6 month Council Tax exemption for vacant properties and replace it with a 100% discount for a period of up to three months for properties that remain vacant
Abolishing the current 50% Council Tax discount that applies at the end of the exemption / discount period above if properties remain vacant

(A vacant property is a property that no one lives in and is substantially unfurnished.)

Due to the level of reduction in funding we are facing, it is possible that everybody of working age who currently receives Council Tax Benefit will have to pay something towards their Council Tax bill.

Cllr Stephen Godfrey, Portfolio Holder for Finance and Administration said,

The Council is faced with implementing some challenging changes and must make some difficult decisions. Is it reasonable to expect all working age households to pay some Council Tax? It is important that we seek benefit claimants and tax payers views to ensure that any changes we make are reasonable. The Council is launching the consultation on its website and will be contacting benefits claimants, tax payers and organisations to encourage them to respond.”

Please follow the link to view a copy of our draft Council Tax Support scheme and to give us your views on the proposed Council Tax Support scheme. http://www.winchester.gov.uk/council-tax/council-tax-benefit-consultation/