Major impact of tax changes for residents

CHANGES in council tax benefit will have a major impact on thousands of households in the East Riding, council chiefs have warned.

East Riding of Yorkshire Council is launching a consultation on the changes, which they say will result from a reduction in Government funding available to local authorities to implement a new council tax benefit scheme.

The changes will only affect working age households, as pensioners are protected, but the council says many households in the East Riding will be affected because of changes which are entirely the result of Government policy.

From April 1 next year the Government is abolishing the current benefit scheme, which helps low or no-income households to pay their council tax. Currently it is a nationally regulated scheme, with rules about who is entitled set by the Department for Work and Pensions.

All local authorities have been required by the Government to design their own local schemes to support those who need help with their council tax.

The Government is reducing the funding available to councils to deliver the scheme, which East Riding Council says will mean less money available to support working age residents.

In the East Riding in 2011/2012 around £23 million was spent on council tax benefit.

The funding for 2012/14 will be reduced by at least £2.5 million and savings will need to be made by either cutting the support provided to working age claimants or finding savings elsewhere in the council’s budget.

The authority currently processes and pays around 28,000 council tax benefit claims of which around 15,500 are pensioners who are excluded from the changes and will continue to be protected under the existing scheme.

Three options for a new scheme were put to the council’s Cabinet in July. The council’s preferred option is the one that limits the amount of help residents could receive towards their council tax bill to 75%. This means that no-one will receive 100% support towards their council tax, so every working age household in the East Riding will have some council tax to pay.

The council’s Leader, Councillor Stephen Parnaby, said: “The budget the council receives to pay council tax support will be reduced by £2.5 million in 2013/14 and therefore the council must make difficult decisions by reducing the amount of help people can have towards their council tax bills or by finding additional savings from elsewhere in the council budget.

“I must stress that the changes to council tax benefit are entirely the result of Governemnt policy and not anything decided locally by this authorty.

“The council has worked closely with many people and groups before drawing up the various options. The general view has been that it is difficult to treat one group who may be vulnerable in a more or less favourable way than another group, so most consultees at this stage think a reduction in benefit across the board is the fairest way to proceed.”

The consultation exercise will take place from now until October 12, to enable people to give their views.

Information about the changes can be found on the website at www.eastriding.gov.uk/counciltaxsupport.

People can complete the questionnaire online or print it and return it to the Research Group (ref CTB), East Riding of Yorkshire Council, FREEPOST NEA 8623, Beverley, HU17 0BR. Details are also avilable from customer service centres. The council will also be conducting a postal survey with a random selection of residents.