Changes in way council tax benefit payments are administered in Welwyn Hatfield in the pipeline

PUBLISHED: 13:00 18 August 2012

Councillor Alan Franey

Councillor Alan Franey

Archant

CHANGES in the way council tax benefit payments are administered in Welwyn Hatfield have come a step nearer.

The borough has now agreed a framework it plans to operate, and it means while some families will be protected, others will have to pay more.

Members of the council’s cabinet agreed the new proposals last week, and will now begin consulting with residents and other interested parties.

In its proposals the council plans to protect pensioners, disabled persons and families with children under the age of five years who presently receive council tax benefit, as well as the option to consider the current level of exemptions applied to empty and second homes.

Alterations are required to the current nationalised council tax benefit system due to changes implemented on local authorities in the Government’s Welfare Reform Act 2010.

This has resulted in councils having to come up with their own schemes.

A council spokeswoman said: “In order to ensure we provide the most appropriate solution for our residents, a wide-ranging consultation will take place with various stakeholders, including existing claimants, full council taxpayers, owners of empty properties, a number of independent financial advice groups (such as the Citizens Advice Bureau, debt groups and money advice agencies), as well as the general public.

“Questions in the consultation will focus on a range of topics, for example, the perceived fairness of the proposal, proposed exemption of some vulnerable groups, and whether the proposal will help meet the Government’s target to encourage more people back to work.”

Councillor Alan Franey, deputy leader and executive member for resources, said: “The draft scheme aims to protect pensioners, disabled persons and families with children under the age of five years; the most vulnerable groups in our society.

“Unfortunately, due to a reduction in Government grant, if, following consultation, the preferred scheme is approved, this will mean the amount of benefit the working age group receives will be less than their current amount.

“This is because the benefit will be calculated on only 75 per cent of the council tax liability or charge and not 100 per cent, as it is at present.”

Last year the council received around £7.9m from the Government, to be paid out in benefit to around 8,090 council tax benefit claimants.

That money will be cut by around £790,000.

In Welwyn Hatfield about 42 per cent of council tax benefit claimants are pensioners. The other two exemption groups make up about an extra 24 per cent.

This means the the 10 per cent shortfall would have to be met by the remaining 34 per cent of council tax benefit recipients.

The consultation will close on September 28. The results of the consultation will help the council to formulate a final proposals, which will then be considered by the cabinet in December and the full council in January 2013.

The new scheme will be introduced from April next year.


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