Local people have until 26 October 2015 to give their views on proposed changes to Council Tax Support provided by Borough of Poole from 2016/17.
Every household in Poole has to pay Council Tax, but some people can apply for Council Tax Support – a reduction to their bill which is means tested. The current Council Tax Support scheme was implemented last year following consultation with residents, with some working age residents only able to claim Council Tax Support on 86 per cent of their total bill for 2015/16.
Funding for Council Tax Support has now been cut even further, meaning that the Council will find it difficult to continue to provide the same level of support without affecting funds needed for other essential services. Local residents are being invited to have their say on a proposed reduction in the level of support that is able to be provided in 2016/17.
Cllr May Haines, Deputy Leader of the Council, Borough of Poole, said, “The Government ended Council Tax Benefit in 2013, and all councils, including Poole, have had to develop their own Council Tax Support schemes to replace it. To date, we have been able to maintain a certain level of support, but with continued austerity we are now faced with the difficult decision of putting forward changes that may further reduce the amount of support available for some people.
“This is a consultation exercise and no decisions will be made until the process is complete and results have been analysed. We recognise that the support we provide is important for many residents, and any decision to reduce it will not be taken lightly.”
In line with Government policy, some groups will continue to be protected from these proposed changes. These include pensioners who are on a national scheme, as well as those entitled to a single person’s discount where there is only one adult in the household. Vulnerable groups, such as those receiving war pensions, disability or carers’ premiums, will also be protected. In addition, as before, if a person is suffering exceptional financial difficulties, the Council may be able to provide assistance on a case by case basis.
Residents will also be consulted on two further proposed changes to align Poole’s Council Tax Support Scheme with Housing Benefit from April 2016, following national changes to Housing Benefit, which was announced in 2015’s Summer Budget. These changes, which would see the Family Premium withdrawn for new working age claims and backdating limited to a maximum of 4 weeks, are also proposed to come into effect from April 2016.
The consultation will close on 26 October 2015. The results of the consultation will be used to help shape Poole’s Council Tax Support Scheme for 2016/17, with any changes coming into force from April 2016.
More information about the draft Council Tax Support Scheme can be found at www.poole.gov.uk/counciltaxsupport
Residents are able to give their views at www.poole.gov.uk/CTSC2015