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Council tax benefits could be cut to save millions

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The Government has announced it is to abolish the national council tax benefit scheme and has asked councils across the country to develop their own programmes for local support.
The council paid out about £8 million in benefit to those eligible across the district last year.
When the Government hands over responsibility for the scheme it will also reduce the funding by around 14 per cent, which equates to about £1.1million.
The council will attempt to use the cut to help plug a £9 million shortfall in Government funding for the coming year.
A public consultation is to be held on the issue and the council’s executive is likely to discuss the matter further with a range of options considered.
Should West Berkshire Council decide to follow other authorities, one option of raising millions is by ending discounts and exemptions for empty properties and second homes, after the government relaxed its rules.
To keep the current level of council tax benefits, the council would need to cover this extra cost which would mean reducing the amount of money available to fund the other services.
The Government has stated that all low-income pensioners and those claiming the single person discount would be exempt from any changes.
The council’s finance executive spokesman, Alan Law (Con, Basildon), said difficult decisions of who gets support and how much, would have to be made.
“The new scheme should encourage people to work and in particular should not act as a disincentive to working,” he said.
“This consultation gives local people the opportunity to shape the future local council tax support scheme. No decisions have been made about the new scheme and local peoples views and ideas will be a major part of any decisions made.”
All information relating to this consultation – including how to respond to the consultation are available on West Berkshire Council website at westberks.gov.uk/counciltaxbenefit.
The consultation will close on 28th Sept 2012 and the results will be published on the council's consultation finder database
Any final decision on the scheme must be made by no later than January 31, 2013.
The new scheme will start from April 1, 2013.

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