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South Hams council brings in its new tax reduction scheme

By Herald Express  |  Posted: February 21, 2014

ONE-OFF MEASURE: Cllr John Tucker

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A NEW council tax reduction scheme is being introduced in the South Hams following an eight-week consultation with residents.

As part of the government's welfare reforms, councils must design their own council tax reduction scheme for working-age people who are not working or on a low income.

Reduced funding means in order to avoid any impact on other council tax payers or services, all claimants will have to make some contribution.

Some residents will be paying something towards their council tax for the first time.

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South Hams councillors agreed to go ahead with a scheme from April which will affect all working-age residents who need help with their council tax.

The council has agreed to fund up to 80 per cent of the cost of council tax for more than 2,700 households on the lowest incomes.

Working-age claimants will have to pay a minimum of 20 per cent — around £280 for the average household.

A hardship fund for those experiencing severe financial difficulties will be available.

The council also decided not to lower the savings threshold so residents with up to £16,000 in savings can still get help from the scheme.

Pensioners have been protected so are unaffected by the changes.

Cllr John Tucker, leader of the district council, said: "As a one-off measure, we were able to give residents on low incomes 12 months to adjust to other welfare changes before asking for a contribution towards council tax.

"We thought it was important to ask people for their view on the new scheme and we have made changes to our plans based on their feedback regarding the savings threshold.

"We have made sure there is a hardship fund to support those in very difficult circumstances and the new scheme is cost neutral — meaning it can be achieved within existing budgets."

In line with many other councils, the new scheme will also be restricted to a maximum value which is equal to property band 'D' level.

This means residents living in larger homes will only get the same level of reduction as those living in an average-size property.

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