Cuts could hit council tax benefits

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COUNCIL tax changes could affect low income families if money cannot be raised to cover Government cuts.

Rutland County Council has already opened a consultation into who should be getting council tax benefits.

South Kesteven District Council is due to open its consultation later this month.

Central Government currently gives the councils a national council tax benefit fund which supports those on low incomes with a contribution towards their council tax bill. This can cover up to 100 per cent of the cost.

From April next year, the responsibility for providing this support transfers to the local authorities.

For Rutland County Council this will mean they receive about £435,000 less funding to help families and people in low income households to pay their council tax.

It is looking into ways it can save money next year without having to raise council tax across the county or cut benefits to those who rely on them.

Coun Terry King (Con) said: “Our challenge is that we need to put a scheme in place to replace council tax benefit but with £435,000 less funding.

“This is clearly a very difficult and challenging scenario, but we’re currently looking at how this could work and want your views on a number of options that are available to us.

“If this £435,000 is not saved from within this project, it will have to be found from elsewhere in the council budget.

“To give residents an idea of the scale of the saving required, £435,000 works out at approximately a two per cent increase in council tax each year.”

People who currently qualify for council tax benefit include families on a combined income of less than £16,000 a year, those with a pension credit guarantee or those who live in a low income shared household.

Coun King added: “Pensioners will not be affected by these changes and other vulnerable groups may also be exempt.

“The 25 per cent single person’s discount, and the exemption for people who are severely mentally impaired and live on their own, are also not included in any changes.”

The consultation will run until will run until Friday, September 28, 2012, and is available online at www.rutland.gov.uk or at the council offices in Oakham.