RESIDENTS in North East Lincolnshire are being asked to give their views on the introduction of a council tax support scheme, which will replace council tax benefit as part of the government’s drive to cut welfare benefits.
From April next year, the grant given to councils across England to meet the cost of council tax benefit will reduce by ten per cent, this equates to a £1.6million cut to the grant in North East Lincolnshire. The government requires that pensioners still receive full council tax benefit and has also asked councils to consider supporting those in receipt of disability benefit and those with a child/children under five.
To meet this challenge North East Lincolnshire Council considered two options.
Option a) Keep the council tax support scheme the same as the current benefit scheme, meeting the cost of the reduced Government grant through increased council tax or cutting other services.
Option b) Introduce a localised council tax support scheme for the 22,000 claimants which is affordable within the grant. This means that some residents who currently receive council tax benefit will pay more towards their council tax bill in the future.
North East Lincolnshire Council has decided to consult with residents on Option b. This option will ensure that pensioners, individuals in receipt of disability benefit and families with young children are protected and receive the same level of support as with the existing system. The remainder of claimants, estimated to be around 10,500 people, will receive around 24 per cent less benefit to help meet their council tax bill. The council is also proposing to set up a support fund of £160,000 to provide emergency support to people in dire need of financial help as a result of the changes.
The consultation on the proposal is now underway and will run until October 12. All residents are being encouraged to give their views on the changes by taking part in the consultation.
A final decision on the scheme will be made by early November, and the changes will be introduced from April 2013.
Councillor Darren Billard, North East Lincolnshire Council’s portfolio holder for finance, governance and support services, said:
“These are the first of many Government cuts which will affect those who receive welfare benefits, and I would strongly urge everyone to have a look at the proposals and let us know what they think.
“In putting forward this option, the council has considered carefully the needs of the vulnerable people in the borough and the requirements put on us by central government, including the council’s dependency on council tax income. We are the only council out of the four in the Humber area to have put forward a proposal to protect those in receipt of disability benefit and those with children under five, including pensioners. We do believe it is vital that all of these groups receive support from us, not only for them but also to reduce the longer-term impact on the wider community.”