By Ian Dipple Friday 25 January 2013 Updated: 25/01 12:48
CUTS to council tax benefits for some residents will be delayed for 12 months to give the borough council more time to plug a funding shortfall.
From April more than 4,000 working age residents on low incomes faced having to find on average about £100 a year extra in council tax as a result of government welfare reforms.
Under the current system councils can claim back cash for claimants from the Department of Work and Pensions but in future they will be given a grant and allowed to decide their own criteria for who is and is not eligible for payments, although the elderly and vulnerable will be protected.
But the council will only get 90 per cent of the £6.5million currently paid out in Redditch on council tax benefit, leaving a £650,000 shortfall of which the borough council’s portion is £90,000. The rest is divided between the county council, police and fire, all of which receive a share of each council tax bill.
The council consulted on a new support scheme to plug at least half the gap this year and the rest in 2014/15, but only one person responded.
Options considered included only allowing council tax discounts on Band D properties and below - those worth up to £88,000 based on 1991 prices when the last valuation was carried out - for those working age families on low incomes.
But the Government has now made extra funding available for 12 months to lessen the impact of the changes.
The borough council has agreed to accept the money, worth over £22,000, as well as make people with second homes pay the full amount of council tax.
The six-month discount available on short and long-term empty properties, which are both empty and substantially unfurnished, has also been halved although officers will use their discretion in some cases such as where a property has been flooded.
Together the measures will save enough this year to give officers time to draw up a new scheme to be introduced from next April.
Jayne Pickering, executive director for finance at the council, said: “It is better if we do it this way as it will give us more time to work this through and what the impact will be on our residents.”
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