Hard-up families face tax benefits misery

East Devon District Council bids to limit the pain as low paid workers face the brunt of cuts to council tax benefits

Plans for a new council tax support scheme are going on the road across East Devon with a warning that the low paid could be hardest hit.

The district council will be visiting towns across the region to unveil its draft proposals, during an eight-week consultation, launched today (Monday)

The new arrangement will replace the national council tax benefit scheme, which is being abolished by the Government from April 2013, alongside cuts to the budget that mean EDDC will have around �1 million less to spend.

The Government has stipulated that:

* Pensioners will see no change to the amount of help they currently receive as existing council tax benefit rules will continue to apply.

* Any new scheme must encourage people to work and in particular should not make people feel less keen to get a job.

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* The impact on the most vulnerable must be considered when designing new schemes.

As pensioners are protected from the change, low-paid working-age residents are set to face the brunt of the cuts. The main groups affected directly are individuals or families who currently claim council tax benefit.

Those 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. This could reduce the amount of council tax support for some households by about �400 a year.

A total of 4,339 working-age people are likely to be affected in East Devon, but the district authority is giving all residents a chance to comment in a bid to spread the impact of the cuts as fairly as possible.

It is writing to all current council tax benefit customers advising them of the draft scheme and inviting them to complete a paper-based survey. If they prefer, they can find out more and complete the survey online at: www.eastdevon.gov.uk/ctsupport

The online survey is also available to all other residents who may want to voice their opinion on the draft scheme, which will be discussed by councillors before a final version is brought forward to full council on December 5.

In addition there will be a series of roadshows in East Devon during August and September, starting in Honiton on Thursday, August 9.

The dates are:

* Thursday August 9 Honiton Job Centre 10am - 1pm; also Tuesday September 18, 1pm - 4pm.

* Monday August 13: reception, EDDC offices, The Knowle, Sidmouth, 10am – 1pm; also Thursday September 13, 1– 4pm.

* Wednesday August 15: Seaton Town Hall, 9am – noon.

* Wednesday September 5: Axminster Guildhall, 9am – noon.

* Friday September 14: Sainsbury’s, Ottery St Mary, 1 – 4 pm.