June 20 2013 Latest news:
By Matthew Gooding
Tuesday, February 5, 2013
RESIDENTS claiming council tax support could see their benefits cut by up to 8.5 per cent under a new council scheme.
South Cambridgeshire district council has introduced a localised council tax support system after central government cut funding for those in need, leaving the council to plug a £1million shortfall in their budget.
To help cover this defecit in the budget, council tax discounts for people who own an empty or second property in the district are being scrapped from April, and a 50 per cent council tax premium will also be charged on properties that remain empty for more than two years to encourage them to be brought back into use.
The district council says the majority of people will not see any changes to their benefits, and that the scheme protects those who are most vulnerable. But some claimants will see their benefits diminish by 8.5 per cent, or up to £5 per week.
Councillors back the plans at a meeting of the full council on Thursday.
Cllr Simon Edwards, the district council’s deputy leader and cabinet member for finance, said: “We can’t get away from the fact we have less money from government to provide support but measures put in place such as removing some discounts for people with second homes has helped soften the impact on those in the most need of help.
“I’d like to thank everyone who took part in our consultation as it has really helped to shape the scheme we are putting in place for the people of South Cambridgeshire.”
Government guidelines mean there couldn’t be any changes to the help pensioners currently receive, and the council has also voted in favour of fully protecting people with disabilities, their carers, as well as lone parents with children under five – totalling around three quarters of households claiming support.
As reported in The Crow last week, about 3,500 people in North Herts will see their council tax benefits cut after North Herts district council agreed to introduce a similar scheme. The average reduction in the district is £5.62 per week.