Dramatic changes for council tax in future

Wealden District Cllr Jan Dunk.

Wealden District Cllr Jan Dunk.

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THE views of ratepayers in Wealden District are needed following a Government decision leading to a shortfall of 10 per cent in funding for council tax benefits.

Wealden District Council (WDC) has launched a 12 week consultation on proposed changes to council tax benefits, which could affect claimants of working age from next April.

As part of the nation’s deficit reduction programme there are changes in the council tax benefit scheme which transfers responsibility for funding to local councils. Central Government will pass 90 per cent of the funds currently allocated to council tax benefit over to councils, which means the remaining 10 per cent, approximately £1m, will have to be found by WDC taxpayers.

District Cllr Jan Dunk, cabinet member with responsibility for WDC benefits service, said: “We wish to adopt a system that is fair to all residents of the district whilst incentivising work, so it is important that as many people as possible take part in this consultation.”

Changes in the new plans mean WDC can withdraw some discounts currently available such as the second homes discount.

But the single person household discount will remain.

As a result, WDC will make important decisions about who will get financial support to pay their council tax, and how much they will receive. Pensioners would be protected but either working age people will have to contribute more, or the cost spread across all council tax payers - or both. One in seven WDC households receives Council Tax Benefit.

WDC has the following choices: Scheme 1: Meet most of the 10 per cent shortfall by using flexibilities on council tax discounts and exemptions. Reductions in the amount received by benefit claimants would finance the remaining amount of approx £460,000.

Scheme 2: No changes to current council tax support by using flexibilities but also an increase in council tax for all Wealden residents; and Scheme 3: The council may consider a further scheme based on consulation feedback.

The consultation runs until November 6. See: www.wealden.gov.uk [computers for internet access available at most libraries or council offices], tel: 01323 443322 or call in to the Wealden DC Hailsham office for a paper copy.