Release Date: 20/07/2012
Hard hitting Government changes to Council Tax benefits have led Richmond Council to be among the first London authorities to consult residents.
The Government plans to reduce the grant that pays for Council Tax benefit by 10 percent and has asked Councils to develop their own schemes. This means that the Council must either reduce payments to current claimants by more than £1m or find other savings or income in order to manage the cut. Pensioners will be exempt from the changes.
At last night’s Cabinet Meeting, members agreed to consult with residents on a possible scheme which aims to protect the borough’s most vulnerable residents and support incentives to work, whilst identifying savings in other areas. The possible scheme will also see 900 residents gain additional benefit.
The proposals make use of increased flexibility around certain Council Tax discounts to raise additional money and would see a proportion of those who currently claim Council Tax benefit receive an increase in their weekly support. Households of claimants which include additional adults will be asked to contribute more, as will claimants living in more expensive properties.
Cllr Geoffrey Samuel, Richmond Council Cabinet Member for Finances and Resources, said:
“I have already said that at a time when the Government is trying to simplify the benefits system, it would make more sense if Council Tax benefit were incorporated into the Universal Benefit which is due to launch next year.
“However, in the meantime we face the challenge of devising a new scheme and we are determined that the borough’s most vulnerable should be protected. And I am delighted that 900 people will gain from the proposals.
“Pensioners and those who are identified as vulnerable through receipt of other benefits, such as disability benefits or carer’s allowance will be exempt from any changes to the scheme. However, it would be unfair of me to say that other groups would not see a change in their benefit allowance.
“We have looked at all the options open to us and have focused on producing a scheme that we believe is fair – fair to existing benefit recipients, but fair also to all of our residents.
“We now need to have your views. We want to make sure that residents have the chance to get involved in deciding how this funding gap is bridged. So I would urge as many people as possible to take part in the consultation.”
The consultation will be launched on Tuesday 24 July. Go to: www.richmond.gov.uk for more information.