The most vulnerable people in South Hams will be protected from
having to pay more towards their council tax bill in 2013-14 following the
endorsement of a series of measures to increase the District Council's income
by the Community Life and
Housing Scrutiny Panel.
Around 2,800 working age households in the district, who
currently claim the benefit, were facing a cut of up to 25 per cent when the
benefit system is abolished by the Government next April. The District Council
will lose more than £73,312
in Government funding when the benefits system
Councils have been tasked with designing localised council tax
During a recent consultation, ahead of a draft plan being
presented before councillors, 69 per cent of those who responded said that
paying at least 25 per cent of their council tax would have a high impact on
their household. More than 60 per cent of those currently receiving the benefit
said they would "struggle with basic needs" - particularly at a time when
the Welfare Reform Bill cuts other benefits.
Listening to the views of its residents, the Community Life and
Housing Scrutiny Panel has drawn up proposals to generate extra revenue to
offset the reduction in Government funding and support vulnerable people in low
income households. All pensioners in the borough are protected from any changes
to the level of council tax benefit they currently receive.
The panel is recommending the removal of the 10 per cent council
tax discount for people who own a second home in the borough meaning that they
would pay the full 100 per cent of council tax. There are also proposals to
change discounts given to people who own uninhabitable or vacant properties.
A 50 per cent council tax premium would also be charged on
properties that remain empty for more than two years to encourage them to be
brought back into use.
The council will also apply for extra funding from the
Department for Communities and Local Government to help with the transition to
a localised council tax support scheme. This funding is only available to
councils who protect the most vulnerable.
Councillor Simon Wright, chairman of the Community Life and
Housing Scrutiny Panel said: "Next April there will be so many changes for
these vulnerable people. Anything we are able to do for these people must be a
good thing. It is very forward thinking use of the second home owner's 10
per cent discount to support our local community."
The draft council tax scheme will now go before the Executive
Committee on December 6 and the full Council on December 13.