December 13 2013 Latest news:
By Emma Brennan
Friday, December 21, 2012
PROPOSALS that will lead to sweeping changes to council tax benefits are to be approved by Babergh and Mid Suffolk district councils by the end of the week.
All councils will have to adopt a local council tax support scheme from April 2012 after the Government’s Welfare Reform Act abolished council tax benefit. The new scheme will be operated locally by the councils’ Shared Revenues Partnership.
Nationally, the scheme will be distributed by the Department for Communities and Local Government via a cash-limited grant.
Although the exact amount is yet to be confirmed it could be up to 14% less than is currently received, leaving a local funding gap.
Babergh currently pays out around £5.4million council tax benefit each year, with Mid Suffolk’s figure at £4.75m.
There are 6,156 households in Babergh receiving council tax benefit of varying amounts while in Mid Suffolk, the council tax benefit case load stands at 5,464.
When their existing claims move to the new scheme, people of pension age will not be affected financially but it will impact on all existing benefit recipients of working age, including those in protected groups.
Both councils intend to make similar changes including reduction of council tax benefit entitlement by 8.5% and the complete withdrawal of the ‘second adult’ rebate. Under the new scheme, the 10% discount for second homes would be scrapped and both councils would introduce a “empty home premium” in a bid to help bring vacant properties back into use.
The district authorities plan to make some of the biggest savings by making changes to class C, A and L council tax benefit rates.
A joint strategy committee report published this month states that changes to the exemptions and second home benefits could produce savings and potential additional income of £577,514 in Babergh and £592,371 in Mid Suffolk.
A 10-week consultation period for the proposed scheme ended on October 20. Both authorities are now considering their options and any final decision will be taken as part of the 2013/14 budget.