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South Hams to protect vulnerable with new Tax Support Scheme

By HeraldExpress  |  Posted: November 29, 2012

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The most vulnerable people in South Hams will be protected fromhaving to pay more towards their council tax bill in 2013-14 following theendorsement of a series of measures to increase the District Council's incomeby the Community Life andHousing Scrutiny Panel.

 

Around 2,800 working age households in the district, whocurrently claim the benefit, were facing a cut of up to 25 per cent when thebenefit system is abolished by the Government next April. The District Councilwill lose more than £73,312in Government funding when the benefits systemends.

 

Councils have been tasked with designing localised council taxsupport schemes.

 

During a recent consultation, ahead of a draft plan beingpresented before councillors, 69 per cent of those who responded said thatpaying at least 25 per cent of their council tax would have a high impact ontheir household. More than 60 per cent of those currently receiving the benefitsaid they would "struggle with basic needs"  - particularly at a time whenthe Welfare Reform Bill cuts other benefits.

 

Listening to the views of its residents, the Community Life andHousing Scrutiny Panel has drawn up proposals to generate extra revenue tooffset the reduction in Government funding and support vulnerable people in lowincome households. All pensioners in the borough are protected from any changesto the level of council tax benefit they currently receive.

 

The panel is recommending the removal of the 10 per cent counciltax discount for people who own a second home in the borough meaning that theywould pay the full 100 per cent of council tax. There are also proposals tochange discounts given to people who own uninhabitable or vacant properties.

 

A 50 per cent council tax premium would also be charged onproperties that remain empty for more than two years to encourage them to bebrought back into use.

 

The council will also apply for extra funding from theDepartment for Communities and Local Government to help with the transition toa localised council tax support scheme. This funding is only available tocouncils who protect the most vulnerable.

 

Councillor Simon Wright, chairman of the Community Life andHousing Scrutiny Panel said: "Next April there will be so many changes forthese vulnerable people. Anything we are able to do for these people must be agood thing.  It is very forward thinking use of the second home owner's 10per cent discount to support our local community."

 

The draft council tax scheme will now go before the ExecutiveCommittee on December 6 and the full Council on December 13.   

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