Council says ‘you will suffer hardship’

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THE abolition of the current Council Tax Benefit scheme and reduced funding for Scarborough Borough Council have led one council officer to confess that the cuts “will inevitably cause some hardship”.

From 1 April 2013 Council Tax Benefit is being abolished, to be replaced by individual schemes designed by billing authorities such as Scarborough Borough Council. As part of the changes the Government has announced that local authorities will receive 10% less funding than was previously available for the same job.

This reduced grant, together with the increased workload and possible council tax increases for 2013/14 mean that the overall funding gap would be around 18%, and David Ponton-Brown, SBC’s revenues and benefits manager, said that residents are likely to suffer as a result.

In an email sent to Whitby Town Council and other council stakeholders, he said: “To achieve this challenging target the council has been forced to consider making quite drastic cuts to the present level of financial support provided for working age people living in the borough which will inevitably cause some hardship.”

The 18% reduction equates to approximately £1.6 million, which must also be placed in the context of £2.5 million efficiency savings the council must also make.

To attempt to plug this gap the residents of Whitby and the borough are being told that they must face benefits cuts of at least 20%.

Aspects of the draft scheme include reducing the total amount of savings and other capital a person can have and still qualify for council tax support from £16,000 to £6,000. Child Benefit and all maintenance received from former partners will now be counted as income when calculating support.

Other changes will also take place, although Mr Ponton-Brown did state that the scheme would only apply for 2013-14 and the changes could be revised for following years.

However, Whitby Town Council reacted with disappointment to the proposals, stating that the changes would affect those who can least afford it.

Councillor Simon Parkes said: “The borough council is actually saying it’s going to cause hardship. We’ve got to say this is not acceptable, we can’t sign up to this because the very people that are going to elect us are the ones that are going to suffer. Don’t squeeze local people, find the money from somewhere else.”

Pensioners would not be affected by the change, but the town council urged anyone who is worried that they may suffer as a result of the changes to contact their representative on Scarborough Borough Council.

All information including consultation documents can be found at www.scarborough.gov.uk/LSCT

A public consultation runs until 31 October 2012. The results will then be reported to the council’s Resources Scrutiny Committee on 20 November. Any amendments the committee makes to the draft scheme will be presented to the council’s cabinet on 7 December prior to seeking approval from the full council on 7 January 2013. This timetable has been drawn up to meet the Government deadline that all local council schemes should be agreed by 31 January 2013.

Anyone with any questions about the consultation or the proposed new scheme should email customer.first@scarborough.gov.uk or call Customer First on 01723 232323.