Eight months after a radical reshuffle of the welfare benefits system, Central Beds Council has extended its new scheme – despite it not being tested in winter.
The decision was made at an Executive meeting where councillors were told a default scheme would be imposed if the authority did not make a final decision by January 31.
The new Council Tax Support scheme was introduced in April, but councillors admitted it is still “too early to fully understand the impact” of the changes.
It is anticipated that winter will have a significant effect on the number of additional claims for Local Welfare Provision (crisis loans) and Discretionary Housing Payments.
This will, in turn, mean a greater number of individuals will start to experience problems and there will be an increased demand on council support services.
This is on top of the £1.1 million in owed council tax this financial year which remains uncollected. Since April almost 4,000 people who had previously not paid anything in 2012/13 now have to pay 25 per cent of council tax.
In the first six months of 2013/14, Central Beds Council has issued 42,755 reminders for late payment, a 23 per cent increase on the previous year, as well as 4,358 court summons.
It was recommended at Chicksands that the review of the Local Council Tax Support Scheme be confirmed and the current scheme be extended for a further year (2014/15) with a full review during 2014/15.