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Consultation on new local Council Tax Support scheme gets under way
Release date: Wed, 15/08/2012
Bristol residents are being asked to give their views on changes to the way help with paying Council Tax is provided to those on low incomes.
The Government is abolishing the current national Council Tax Benefit Scheme and every local authority will need to develop its own alternative support scheme and to identify ways of meeting the shortfall in funding. The final decision will be made by the Mayor as part of their budget for 2013/14
Bristol can raise £2.5m through its removal of discounts for second homes and lower allowances for empty properties, but that still leaves a £5m shortfall.
The decision on how this gap will be met will be one of the first tasks of our newly-elected mayor in November to assist in that process. Officers have drawn up three options for consultation.
A fully-funded scheme- this would be very similar to the current benefit scheme with minimum change and impact on claimants. It would mean reducing expenditure on other services or increasing Council Tax
A part-funded scheme - all ‘non-protected’ low-income households would pay a minimum of 12.5 per cent of their tax liability. This would amount to £2.5 million leaving the council having to fund £2.5 million from other services, or by increasing Council Tax
All non-protected low-income households would pay a minimum of 25 per cent of their tax liability. This would meet the £5 million budget shortfall and additional funding by other means would not be needed
Councillor Jon Rogers, Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Resources, said: “The scrapping of the current Council Tax Benefit scheme by the Government will leave the city with a £5 million shortfall. Addressing the funding shortfall will be the responsibility of the new mayor.
"Our administration would wish to protect the vulnerable and those on low income wherever possible, as we have done in addressing the substantial savings made in the last two years..
“Clearly, this will leave the new mayor with some tough choices to make about how much support they provide to those on low incomes, whether they maintain the current level of services provided by the council, or whether they raise Council Tax.
“To assist the future mayor, we are asking residents in Bristol to look at the alternatives available and to let us have their views. It is important that as many people as possible have their say during the consultation period which runs until October 29, 2012.”
The consultation documents, questionnaire and further information for the public can be found at www.bristol.gov.uk/counciltaxchanges from 9am on Monday, August 6, 2012.
Alternatively people can request a questionnaire by telephoning 0117 3526542, or visit one of our Customer Service Points or libraries.
A report titled Local Council Tax Support scheme & Technical Reforms of Council Tax was approved by Cabinet on July 26, 2012.
This included proposals to make changes to reduce some council tax discounts for empty properties and second homes in order to raise new income towards a Local Council Tax Support scheme (LCTS), as well as options for public consultation regarding a LCTS. All three options were approved for public consultation.
A copy of the council’s cabinet report can be found at www.bristol.gov.uk/committee/2012/ua/ua000/0726_10.pdf
Bristol residents will be encouraged to take part in the consultation online with paper copies being available in Customer Service points and libraries.
We will also be running five drop-in sessions across the city in September, to give the opportunity to discuss the options with officers and fill in the questionnaire.
Separate events will be held for community groups and advice agencies to ensure that their opinions and feedback are taken into account when considering the final scheme.
In addition to the above, the questionnaire will be sent to Bristol’s citizen’s panel and 5,000 randomly selected Council Tax Benefit recipients.
Once the consultation period is over, the council will review its draft scheme, taking into account public opinion. This final scheme will go to cabinet for approval on January 15, 2013.