Brighton & Hove Council are contacting around 17,000 residents affected by the government’s council tax benefit reform to help people adjust.
From April 1, 2013 the government is abolishing Council Tax Benefit and Councils have been asked to introduce local schemes to replace it. At the same time the government is reducing the grant it gives to local authorities to help those on a low income pay for their council tax by 10%. This means a reduction of £2.5 million for Brighton & Hove.
Following a consultation process last year, the Council is introducing the Council Tax Reduction Scheme from April 2013 and has committed to absorbing £1.1 million of the £2.5 million reduction. Entitlement to the scheme will be assessed by a means test so that people with the least money will receive the most help.
While pensioners are protected from paying any more as a result of the changes, it does mean that all households of working age will need to pay something towards their Council Tax.
The scheme includes several measures to help protect the least well-off residents including a limit of £3 per week extra on how much existing claimants will pay in the first year of the new scheme. There will also be a discretionary fund of £300,000 in the first year to help people in exceptional circumstances.
To keep the changes as simple as possible, all current claimants will have their eligibility for the new scheme worked out without having to reapply. Bills telling everyone how much they need to pay will go out in March.
Brighton & Hove City Council Leader Jason Kitcat, said:
“Thousands of our residents will be affected by this government change and we’re doing everything we can to support them. This month we’ll be writing to all 17,000 affected residents to remind them about the changes and help them prepare.
“In real terms the money available to help working-age people on benefit in the city has been cut by 16%. However, because we are putting an extra £1.1 million towards replacing the government reduction residents will pay no more than £3 a week extra, and many far less.
“Despite our very tight budget situation, we have found £300,000 to help those least able to afford these changes. We are doing everything we can to soften the blow as government further restricts welfare payments.”