17 August 2012

Lambeth consults on new council tax support scheme

Lambeth are currently asking local residents about how they want the new council tax support scheme to operate.

The Government is abolishing council tax benefit which is given automatically to people on low incomes to cover the cost of paying the council tax.

From April 2013 the responsibility for helping people on low incomes pay their council tax will be shifted to councils so Lambeth will have to decide who will be eligible for help with their council tax. Disguised under the veneer of increasing power to councils, this change also sees a 10% reduction in grant funding for this benefit - this means that Lambeth needs to raise an extra £2.6million to make up for the funding lost. This will result in more people on lower incomes having to more council tax each year.

Although claiming that the change will allow councils flexibility central government have insisted that older people are not affected. This means that the rest of the population will see around a 20% cut in their council tax benefits which equates to roughly £5 per week or £250 per year.

Nationally this change in polcit will result in a saving of £500m a year for the coalition Government - a drop in the ocean of the total debt. The impact on families will be great with the increased cost of council tax likely to lead to increased rent arrears, repossessions and homelessness. This will bring costs to society which will more than likely wipe out any predicted saving. The impact on local communities will be great too - that £5 extra a week used to pay council tax will not be spent in local shops and services.

Local authorities have until January 2013 to devise their new schemes for implementing this new system.

Lambeth are asking local residents for suggestions on how the new system should be implemented - should certain vulnerable groups be protected? At what level of income should someone have to start paying full council tax? Should working people receive more or less benefit? The answers you give to these and other questions will help shape the new scheme. To take part in the consultation complete the short questionnaire on the Lambeth website or contact the council for a paper version - call 020 7926 6038 or email benefitsinfo@lambeth.gov.uk. The consultation closes on 19 October 2012 so be sure to have your say before then.

Lambeth information on the consultation
Central Government information on the new scheme