Saturday, 12 May 2012

Brent faces 'difficult decisions' on Council Tax support

Brent Council will be consulting in June on the level of Council Tax payment for those on benefits. It is likely that many families and individuals will have to pay more.

From the Brent Council website:

The Government is abolishing the Council Tax Benefit scheme and is asking councils to replace it with their own locally run service called Council Tax Support. To ensure we have a scheme that suits our borough Brent is consulting with residents on its proposals. 

As well as having to create a local scheme that is suitable for Brent, the council will also have to work within a budget that has been reduced by ten per cent.  Early estimates suggest this represents an initial reduction of at least £3.5 million, but this gap will increase if the number of people claiming benefit goes up, which already appears to be the trend.  

This shortage in funding means we have to make some difficult decisions about who gets financial support and how much.  

To create a system that is as fair as possible and in line with the needs of the community, Brent Council is putting together proposals for a new system and is consulting with residents to see how you feel this would work in our borough.

Why is the Council Tax Benefit scheme being abolished?
The benefit system is facing a radical over-haul which was kick started back in 2011 with changes to Housing Benefit For the most part reform has meant the amount of money available to councils has been reduced.

At the same time, the Government has introduced the Localism Bill, much of this bill involves the government handing over control of budgets and decision making powers to local councils. One of the many benefits to be affected by these changes is the national Council Tax Benefit scheme which will be replaced by local Council Tax Support in April 2013.

What the changes mean
  • Every single council will have their own local Council Tax Support scheme, with its own eligibility criteria.
  • Next year Brent will have ten per cent less money for Council Tax Support than it currently spends on Council Tax Benefit.  It will also have to manage what it spends on helping people within this budget, even if more people start to claim benefit.
  • The government has specified that certain groups such as pensioners will be  protected and should see no changes to their entitlement - however, it's up to each council to consider whether to protect other groups - and how to fund any extra protections.
  • The government wants councils to incentivise people to find work, by making the system support them better when they move into work.
  • Brent has to decide whether to change the current rules for claiming Council Tax Benefit in order to operate the new scheme at a lower cost. However, if a council decides to keep the current scheme and continues to assess people as the government does now, then it will have to make cuts to other services in order to make up the reduction in funding.

What happens next?
Consultation starts in June and ends in early August.  A decision - taking account of your feedback for a localised version of the scheme - will be made later in the year.


Trevor said...

This is what I consider as an insult to Injury.
I mean when you stop to consider that we are already paying alot towards the council tax and as I have highlighted on this website, the fact Is the money we are paying for work like street drain clearing isn't being done...and yet the council and government are putting more pressure on us by changing the current system.
so to my understanding if we are going to be paying more in the new council system, will that mean all the street drains will be cleaned or will it continue as normal?
I shake my head in despair...

Martin Francis said...

There will be no increase in the Council's revenue. Because they face a 10% cut they will try and make up the £3.5m lost by reducing or perhaps ending some of the current concessions. As the recession continues however and more people go on benefit the funding gap will widen and may lead to further reductions in concessions. This will mean that hard-pressed people on benefits will have to pay a higher proportion of their Council Tax.

The Local Don. said...

Council Tax services the national debt.

The Local Don.

The Local Don. said...

Trevor, If you're unhappy about the level of service you're receiving from Brent Council, why are you paying Council Tax?

The Local Don.