Homes facing benefits slash

Concern: Coun Tomlinson
Concern: Coun Tomlinson
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A new scheme to make up for a funding shortfall will see homes having to pay more in council tax.

Council tax benefits gave residents a means tested reduction in their bills depending on circumstances, such as for people on low incomes, students or single parents.

The scheme is being abolished in April and being replaced with a new set of rules drawn up by local authorities.

South Ribble Council wants a flat rate deduction off the council tax bill.

It comes following a survey carried out by the council, where more than 60 per cent of participants said they wanted the flat-rate deduction to be implemented

The deduction is part of a step by the council to make up for the losses from government grant reductions.

Other options the council 
suggested to residents were to increase council tax for everybody to make up the shortfall, which 20 per cent of people were in favour of.

Or cutting other services, which 35 per cent of voters would have preferred to see happen. The consultation garnered 991 responses – 49 per cent of those who voted currently pay full council tax and receive no benefits; 27 per cent pay no council tax and receive full benefit; and 24 per cent of those who responded pay some council tax and receive some benefit.

The results showed that 80 per cent of those who took part in the consultation said that working age claimants should make a contribution towards their council tax and 80 per cent also said that contribution should be based on ability to pay.

The cabinet’s recommendation will be voted on at a meeting of the full council next week.

The council currently offers tax relief to 8,000 claimants.

Around half of those are pensioners – but they will not be affected by the move.

Government proposals would see the £6m government grant which covers the cost of the current council tax benefit scheme being reduced by around 10 per cent.

Leader of the opposition Coun Matthew Tomlinson said: “We’re in this position because of what the government has decided, and I have real concerns about when the council tries to collect this money.

“Those of us who remember the Poll Tax will know what I mean, I don’t think all of that was collected, and I have genuine fears that there will be a lot of this money which we won’t collect.”