Almost 800 people lose out in cuts to council tax support scheme

Bury Times: Bury Town Hall Bury Town Hall

Cuts to a scheme which supports people on low incomes with their council tax have affected nearly 800 households in Bury.

Figures from Bury Council show that 794 homes have been affected by a fall in council tax support, which replaced the government-run council tax benefit in April 2013.

Councillors approved the continuation of this local scheme into the 2014/15 financial year at this month’s last full council meeting.

The abolition of council tax benefit in favour of the locally administered council tax support meant Bury Council received a 10 per cent cut in the funding they received from central government.

As a result, several restrictions were placed on whether residents could access this benefit, including capping awards at council tax band B.

Second adult rebate was also withdrawn. In addition, people of working age who have more than £8,000 in savings, and pensioners who have more than £16,000 in savings are not entitled to receive council tax support.

Cllr John Smith, Bury Council cabinet member for finance, said: “The government gave councils a poisoned chalice when it handed over responsibility for council tax benefits, because it only funded 90 per cent of the cost of those payments.

“We, like other councils, were left having to bridge the gap. Following consultation, we drafted a scheme that aimed to both meet the shortfall and that was fair to claimants while protecting the most vulnerable.”

Bury Council say that they are working on various initiatives to try and minimise the impact of changes to welfare on residents, including working closely with the Citizens’ Advice Bureau to help residents maximise benefits and other sources of income.

Cllr Smith added: “The scheme has had very little negative feedback, which suggests that it is meeting the needs of residents while being financially sustainable, and therefore we are proposing that the scheme continues in its current form for another year.

“It would, of course, be nice to relax the rules for claimants who are affected, but unfortunately the council is in no financial position to do so.”

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