A new scheme to replace council tax benefit in Central Bedfordshire was approved by councillors at last week’s Full Council meeting.
The new local council tax support scheme will replace the current national scheme of council tax benefit awards which is being abolished by the government as part of national welfare reforms.
The changes will take place from 1 April.
The Central Bedfordshire scheme has been developed to reflect feedback from public consultation which took place from August to November last year.
Councillor Maurice Jones, deputy leader and executive member for resources at Central Beds Council says, “We have worked hard to develop a council tax support scheme that is designed to be affordable and fair and the positive response from the consultation show that the majority of respondents agreed.
“We are grateful to all of those who took part in the consultation. The feedback we have received has been helpful in ensuring that residents are not unduly disadvantaged within the funding constraints we face.”
The council has had to reduce the overall cost of the council tax support scheme by £1.7million to reflect the reduced government contribution compared to the current council tax benefit scheme.
Responses, including 1,689 questionnaires as well as emails and letters and a telephone survey to 500 households, showed that a majority of respondents supported the council’s proposed scheme.
Under the proposed changes, people with capacity to earn will be required to pay at least 25 per cent of the total bill, even if they pay nothing now.
The proposals include added work incentives for low income families.
When someone gets a job or increases their hours or earnings, less of their new earnings will be taken into account when calculating claims for council tax support.
Owners of empty and second homes will no longer receive a council tax discount or exemption under the new scheme. In keeping with the council’s commitment to tackling long-term empty homes, there is a proposal to charge home owners council tax at a premium rate of 150 per cent on houses left empty for over two years.
However, in response to consultation feedback, executive councillors agreed to establish a Hardship Fund to make discretionary payments in exceptional circumstances for those really struggling to pay.
Premiums and personal allowances used to calculate entitlement to council tax support will be increased at the rate of inflation from 2014/15.
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Friday 24 May 2013
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