Lifeline Council Tax Reduction Scheme faces significant cuts

Lifeline Council Tax Reduction Scheme faces significant cuts

by William Mata | 11th October 2018

LOW income groups could bear the brunt of expected cuts to the Council Tax Reduction Scheme in coming years.

In a recent meeting, Tunbridge Wells Borough Council [TWBC] members voted to carry forward proposals for how the financial assistance should be altered.

Their 2019/20 plan is described was ‘tinkering’ with the scheme, before central government cuts could see major changes from 2020/21.

Members of all parties on the Conservative-run authority spoke in some opposition to the scheme, with one calling it ‘an attack on those at the bottom’.

Greater discussions are expected in coming meetings of how the 2020/21 plan will impact upon claimants.

The authority can currently offer low income groups a council tax reduction of up to 100 per cent, based on their circumstances.

Beneficiaries of the Council Tax Reduction Scheme include carers, students, those with an annexe or owning an empty home.

Around 5,400 households receive the discount in the Tunbridge Wells borough, approximately half of whom are pensioners.

The cost of the scheme is shared between Kent County Council, Kent Police and Kent Fire and Rescue with TWBC contributing 10 per cent to the overall bill.

In tax rebates, more than £6million was paid out in 2016/17 – a figure that is set to reduce to £4.9million in 2019/20.

Thereafter the amount could be cut further and the authority has put forward a 13 point plan to reduce the amount spent on rebates.

“With central government funding to reduce after 2019/20, fundamental changes will need to be considered,” TWBC documentation states.

The 13 cost-cutting proposals include:

  • Removing the Family Premium for all new working age applicants.
  • Reducing backdating to one month.
  • Reducing the period for which a person can be abroad and still receive the reduction to four weeks.
  • Limiting the maximum number of dependent children within the calculation to two.

Full council members passed the motion, but not everyone was happy.

Cllr Alain Lewis of the Labour group said his party had ‘always opposed’ the ‘erosion’ of the discount.

“We see this as a pure attack on those at the bottom of the financial ladder.

“If there is ever financial shortfall it should be those with an ability to pay [who are taxed] rather than those who are struggling.”

The amount of tax a resident pays depends on house size and location – but a Tunbridge Wells homeowner with a mid-sized band D property would be charged £1716.70 in 2018/19, a rise from £1638.19 in 2017/18.

All Kent districts have a common platform for council tax reduction.

Council tax helps fund many services, including disposing of rubbish and maintaining parks.

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