Taxing times are ahead
Leighton’s jobless are one step closer to being forced to use their dole money to pay for some of their council tax bill under a scheme which would see thousands of people’s benefit cut.
On January 24 the Central Bedfordshire Council proposals will go to full council for final approval, which will see the unemployed, who currently have their entire council tax paid for them, have to find at least 25 per cent of the total bill. This comes after the authority has been forced to reduce its council tax support scheme by £1.7million after the government cut 14 per cent of the funding given to support council taxpayers.
The changes aim to encourage people back into work, people on low incomes, people living with a second adult on a low income, plus working and unemployed single parents with children, will also have to start making a contribution, or pay more than they currently do. But pensioners will have the same level of protection as before and there will also be protections for other groups of vulnerable customers such as carers, lone parents with children under five, some disabled people and war widows.
The proposals include added work incentives for low income families. When someone gets a job or increases their hours or earnings, less of their new earnings will be taken into account when calculating claims for council tax support.
Other people who may be affected include owners of empty and second homes who will no longer receive a council tax discount or exemption and there is also a proposal to charge home owners council tax at a premium rate of 150 per cent on houses left empty for over two years.
In reponse to feedback from public consultation that took place from August to November last year, the scheme has been developed and will abolish the existing arrangement when it is introduced in April.
Responses, including 1,689 questionnaires as well as emails and letters and a telephone survey to 500 households, showed that a majority of respondents supported the council’s proposed scheme.
However, in response to consultation feedback, executive councillors agreed to establish a Hardship Fund to make discretionary payments in exceptional circumstances for those really struggling to pay. Premiums and personal allowances used to calculate entitlement to council tax support will be increased at the rate of inflation from 2014/15.
Councillor Maurice Jones, spokesman for resources at Central Bedfordshire Council, said: “We have worked hard to develop a council tax support scheme that is designed to be affordable and fair and the positive response from the consultation show that the majority of respondents agreed.
“We are grateful to all of those who took part in the consultation. The feedback we have received has been helpful in ensuring that residents are not unduly disadvantaged within the funding constraints we face.”
Bucks County Council is set to freeze council tax for a third year in a row after 82 per cent of residents said they wanted it to stay the same.
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Weather for Leighton Buzzard
Wednesday 22 May 2013
Temperature: 4 C to 14 C
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Temperature: 4 C to 10 C
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