Thursday, July 5, 2012
Localisation of council tax benefit could see people of working age lose up to £400 a year. East Devon District Council is launching a consultation to give people a chance to influence how the system is run.
Helping residents of working age cope with welfare reforms that could see their council tax benefit reduced by as much as £400 a year is the aim of an eight-week consultation being launched by East Devon District Council.
With a high number of pensioners, who are protected from cuts, and a smaller pot of money, it is people of working age in the district who are expected to be hit hardest when a new, localised benefit system is introduced next year.
Starting in August, the consultation will aim to give people the chance to influence how the council runs the new Council Tax Support benefit.
The localisation of council tax benefit will mean cuts to the benefit fund - at the same time as responsibility is transferred from the Department for Work and Pensions to local councils.
The district council says that, while only some groups in the community will be directly affected by the changes, everyone needs to know what is happening and how councils in Devon are working together to limit the impact on hard-pressed families and individuals as much as possible. Pensioners will not be affected by any cuts in Council Tax Support.
Working age people who are affected will see their Council Tax Support reduced by an amount yet to be finalised, but in some cases it could mean a drop of around 30 per cent.
Councillor David Cox, the council’s portfolio holder for finance, said: “Above all, we want to ensure that these changes are introduced in a way that treats people as fairly as possible so that the most vulnerable are kept safe. Councils in Devon have been working together to thrash out the best options for a local scheme and now we’re ready to share our ideas with the public.
“During August and September, we will be asking people to fill in online or paper surveys and to let us know if they think we have got our district scheme right.
“We will be inviting all sections of the adult population to take part in the survey – not just those who are directly affected.
“It’s really important that we limit the impact on our benefit claimants, so we must design the best scheme we can and operate it effectively”.
All taxpayers in East Devon need to be aware of the changes because council tax forms part of the overall tax system, says the council. This will be the first time that councils have been given the task of locally designing a Council Tax Support system for people of working age.
The council admits: “The funding that the Government will be handing out to each district to pay for council tax benefit will be less than it is now, so councils will have to decide how best to ensure that those who are most in need still get support from a shrinking pot of money.
“The situation will vary from one district to another, because the funds will be different and the number of pensioners who must be taken care of first will also vary from one location to another.
“Districts with a higher proportion of pensioners will see a smaller pot of money to be divided up amongst the working age benefit customers, so these people will be hit harder.”