CUTS in benefit may come at a time when householders face increased council tax bills, a report shows.
Calderdale councillors will tonight have to decide how it should run its own Council Tax Support Scheme from next April – and it means some may lose out.
The council currently spends £16 million a year on Council Tax Benefit, which supports those on low earnings, and until now it been paid for by central government funding.
But cuts in this funding means the authority will have 10% less to cover the cost and at the same time it has to create its own scheme and decide who will benefit.
Cabinet members will have to decide who will get the financial support and how much they may receive.
The only guidance set by the government is that pensioners should be fully protected, vulnerable groups should be protected as far as possible and work incentives should be enhanced.
Calderdale says it will use its own funds to provide the same level of financial support from April 2013 as it currently does.
But from April 2014 there will be big changes and the recommendations for 2013/14 are:
Claims only paid with effect from date of receipt.
Removal of non-dependent deductions exemption for claimants with Disability Living Allowance.
Council Tax payable with capital of £3,000 or more.
£2 a week minimum level of Council Tax Support.
Calderdale Council’s Leader Clr Tim Swift said: “Cuts in Government funding to help pay for Council Tax support have put the council in a difficult position.
“If we are forced to make changes, I am concerned that they will particularly affect low paid working families.
“I am pleased we are able to protect these people for the next year, but fear that we will have to make tough decisions whilst trying to make the scheme as fair as possible in the future.”
Feedback from town ward forums shows that residents believed the multiple impact of other changes in the wider welfare reform, such as Universal Credit, will be felt by people at the time they’re required to contribute to council tax.
A report reveals that the forecast cost to the council will be £14.4m in 2013-14, £14.7m in 2014-15 and £14.9m 2015-16.
Government funding in the form of an un-ringfenced grant, which technically can be spent at the council’s discretion, is estimated to be around £12.4m, meaning the council would have to set aside the shortfall.
And it may still mean working-age families face receiving less in council tax support than they currently do, in some cases people currently paying no council tax will face a bill.
The Council’s Deputy Leader, Clr Janet Battye, added: “Our priority is to support the most vulnerable people in Calderdale, who would be most affected by the changes.”