Council tax benefit changes could save £600,000By Jon Nurse
January 31, 2013
Owners of empty properties could feel the squeeze as the borough council tries to recover a £600,000 shortfall.
Changes to council tax benefits and restrictions to council tax discounts on empty properties are the ideas put forward to deal with the shortfall brought on by a change in Government Treasury policy.
Graham Ebers, Wokingham Borough Council’s strategic director of resources, said: “We were shortchanged £600,000 and needed a scheme to address it or it would fall on the taxpayer.
“What we have tried to do is protect the most vulnerable people and pass most of the gap bridging on to empty homes.”
In consultation held in October, 76.7 per cent of the 56 responses were in favour of changing rules about empty properties to make up the shortfall.
Proposed changes also include seven alterations to council tax benefit, including setting a minimum level of support of £3 per week, to help plug the difference.
The council will pick up a £5 million annual benefits bill in April, which was previously paid by central Government, and will receive a grant to fund 90 per cent of the cost.
The proposed changes would fill the remaining 10 per cent, estimated at around £600,000, and are expected to be approved at a special Executive meeting tomorrow.
The committee is also due to approve the borough’s council tax base for the next financial year at the meeting.
The figure is part of the calculation to be made next month that will determine whether council tax will need to rise.
The executive is also expected to approve a £165,000 grant to the borough’s parishes.
“It should minimise any impact raising from the transfer of council tax benefit to local authority control,” Mr Ebers added.
“It will therefore leave the parishes in a similar position to that of the council.”