Council announces help for those affected by tax relief changes


ECDC - Credit: Archant

VULNERABLE residents in East Cambridgeshire are to be protected from large reductions in council tax support following a decision by councillors last week.

At a full council meeting at East Cambridgeshire District Council held last week, members approved a new council tax support scheme, after the Government abolished the national scheme for Council Tax benefit and reduced the money it gives councils to pay these benefits by 10 per cent.

The new scheme, which was developed following a public consultation, reduces council tax exemptions for people who own an empty property and removes it for those with second properties, which means extra revenue generated can be used to offset the reduction in government funding and support vulnerable groups on low incomes.

A 50 per cent council tax premium will also be charged on properties that remain empty for more than two years to encourage them to be brought back into use.

Cllr Peter Moakes, leader of the district council, said: “When the Government announced it was abolishing the national scheme for Council Tax benefit, giving the responsibility to local authorities but cutting the funding we receive by ten per cent – we knew we would be faced with some difficult decisions.

“However, we received great support from the public via the consultation which provided tremendous guidance to the scheme we have developed.

“As a consequence of their feedback, we have designed the council tax support scheme to protect the most vulnerable people in our society as far as possible.

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“For example, by giving less generous discounts to people with empty properties, we have limited the impact on people with low incomes.

“This goes to show how important it is to have your say in consultations in order to help shape policies which will affect the lives of our residents.”

Government guidelines mean there can’t be any change to the help pensioners currently receive, and the council has also worked to protect the most vulnerable in the district as far as possible

By accepting the scheme, the council are able to apply for extra funding from the Department for Communities and Local Government to help with the transition to localised council tax support schemes.

This funding is only available to councils who charge the most vulnerable groups no more than 8.5 per cent of their Council Tax.

Now it has received approval, the new scheme will begin in the new financial year in April 2013.