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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 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

support schemes.


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.   

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