This consultation closed on 21 November 2012.
As part of its welfare reform programme, the Government has announced that the national Council Tax Benefit scheme will be replaced by local Council Tax Support schemes. This change will take place on 1 April 2013.
Funding for Council Tax Support will be cut by the Government by 10%. This will leave leave a funding gap of around £400,000.
We have worked hard to develop a draft scheme which balances the need for savings with maintaining protection for vulnerable households. We need the views of Dales' residents and organisations to help shape our final scheme.
Consultation on our proposals is taking place from 26th September to 21st November 2012. Our consultation timetable fits with our budget setting process and Government guidance.
Our Draft Scheme - A summary
We believe the current Council Tax Benefit scheme has built in features to help protect vulnerable households. We wish to keep these in our scheme. We also want to keep it as simple as possible, both in the way it is run and the way the level of support is worked out.
We therefore propose that from 1 April 2013:
- eligibility for support is based on existing Council Tax Benefit arrangements
- existing Council Tax Benefit rules are used for calculating Council Tax Support, helping to protect the most vulnerable, but that the final award for all working age claimants is reduced by a fixed percentage – we propose a 10% reduction
- as required by Government, pensioners are protected from any changes
- we extend payments for people starting work from 4 to 8 weeks
- we continue to protect working age war pensioners by ignoring income from War Widows, War Widowers and War Disablement pensions when calculating support
- we consider the need for extra help for those most affected by the changes
- people claiming Council Tax Benefit are moved over to the new scheme automatically and not asked to make a new claim
- all the other rules stay the same.
Separate to the scheme, so that we can limit the reduction in benefit for working age claimants to 10%, we are considering changes to the amount of Council Tax we charge for second homes (holiday homes) and empty properties. Without this change the benefit reduction for working age claimants would be 24%. We'd like your views on this too.
A copy of our full draft scheme is available here [PDF 0.42MB]
Tell us what you think
There are lots of ways you can have your say:
Paper copy of the questionnaire
Collect a paper copy of the questionnaire (freepost envelope provided) from:
- Town Hall, Bank Road, Matlock
- Agricultural Business Centre, Bakewell
- Ashbourne Leisure Centre
- Citizens Advice Bureau
- Dales Housing
- Derbyshire Dales CVS
- Libraries in the Dales
- Matlock Job Centre
- Rural Action Derbyshire
- Wirksworth Leisure Centre
Area Community Forums
Come along to one of our Area Community Forums (all start at 7pm) on:
- October 8, Ashbourne Leisure Centre
- October 16, Agricultural Business Centre, Bakewell
- October 30, Whitworth Centre, Darley Dale
Drop in to one of our information sessions to talk to officers about how the Government changes and our proposals would affect you, give us your views and find out where to go for further advice. These sessions are due to be held from 5pm - 7pm at the following locations:
- October 22, Country Kitchen Restaurant, Waltham House, St John Street, Wirksworth
- October 23, Tideswell Methodist Church, Fountain Square, Tideswell
- October 24, St Joseph's Community Hall, Bank Road, Matlock
You can also contact us by any of the following methods:
Phone: 01629 761 260 / 01629 761 271
Remember, we need your views by 21 November 2012. Submissions after this date will not be considered.
We are also working with voluntary and community organisations in the Derbyshire Dales to encourage people affected to have their say.
Your questions answered
How would local people be affected?
If you receive Council Tax Benefit, under the proposals the amount of benefit you receive could go down from April 2013. The changes will not affect pensioners – their level of Council Tax Benefit will not be reduced. The proposed changes would affect people of working age who currently receive Council Tax Benefit.
How exactly could I be affected – how much Council Tax Benefit could I lose?
The reduction would vary depending on your circumstances, so we would need to look at each person on an individual basis. Some would lose very little but for others it could be a lot more. To get an idea of how you might be affected see the examples [PDF 0.02MB]. The easiest way to find out how you could be affected is to come to an information session. Alternatively email or phone us and we can talk it through in confidence.
Is this the only change taking place to welfare and benefits?
The new system for calculating Council Tax Benefit is one of the changes being introduced as a result of the Government's wider welfare reforms. Some changes have already been introduced by the Government, others are scheduled and some are still proposals. We are working very closely with our local partners like Dales Housing Ltd and aim to write to anyone affected by wider changes in the autumn. We are very keen to give you the support you may require to budget for the changes in your benefit payments.
What should I do if I'm worried I might not be able to pay my bills?
If you could be affected by the Council Tax Benefit proposals don't wait to seek advice until the changes have already taken effect and your benefit has been reduced. If you are struggling to meet your outgoings – or think you may have difficulty in future – get in touch. We will be able to talk through your individual circumstances in complete confidence and there are a number of things we could look at with you – such as spreading the cost of payments to reduce the amount of Council Tax you pay each month.
If there is a shortfall in the money the council receives from the Government, can't it be covered without reducing Council Tax Benefit?
We have looked at other ways to reduce the impact on people who would be affected by these proposals. For example, one thing we are considering is increasing the amount of Council Tax that people need to pay if they own a second home or a property that is empty. However, these measures are not enough by themselves to offset the shortfall in the government funding we will receive. We have tried to be as fair as we can in coming up with the proposed system – but we want to know what you think before the scheme is finalised.
Under the proposed system Council Tax Benefit for pensioners would not go down – could this change?
No matter what system is used for calculating Council Tax Benefit, pensioners will be exempt. This means that if we change our proposals as a result of the consultation, pensioners would still be exempt - so no matter what system we adopt their Council Tax Benefit will not be reduced.
The findings from the consultation are available for viewing: Council Tax Support Scheme Consultation Findings [PDF 0.09MB]
If you would like independent advice, the following organisations may be able to help:
Citizens Advice Bureau
Phone: 0844 375 2712
Derbyshire County Council Benefits Helpline
Phone: 0845 120 2985