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New council tax reduction scheme aims to protect Bournemouth’s most needy
PEOPLE receiving council tax benefit in Bournemouth could soon be hit by changes to the system, with councillors set to consider a new scheme on Wednesday.
A report going to Bournemouth’s cabinet asks members to adopt a new Local Council Tax Reduction Scheme to replace the outgoing scheme of council tax benefit.
From April this year councils across the country will have to run their own tax support scheme, with 10 per cent less funding than the current national system.
Bournemouth’s new system, which is designed to protect pensioners and the most vulnerable including carers and the severely disabled, will see most working age residents who qualify for support required to pay a minimum of 20 per cent contribution to their council tax.
But in order to try and mitigate the impact on the hardest-hit, councillors will also be asked to approve the creation and funding of a new Local Welfare Assistance Fund providing financial assistance to those who suffer most as a result of the changes.
The £746,000 fund is to help those worst off as well as people previously eligible for Crisis Loans and Community Care Grants.
During a public consultation on the issue last year, 76 per cent of non-claimants thought the cost of the changes should not be passed onto council tax payers or result in cuts to other services.
Council leader John Beesley said: “The government has given us a real challenge by transferring responsibility to local councils to deliver a suitable scheme while reducing their funding by ten per cent overall.
“This is a complicated issue and we have had to take some difficult decisions in coming up with a proposed scheme.
“We know that this imposed change by government will have a significant detrimental impact on some Bournemouth residents.
“To help mitigate that, consideration is now being given on how the council might fund and operate a Local Welfare Assistance Fund to best support those most in need in our Bournemouth community. The government will not be supporting this with additional funding but we believe that it is the right thing to do in these difficult times.”
In December councillors rejected a government offer of a subsidy grant, as it would have left them with a significant funding gap of £514,000.
Residents who claim council tax benefit will be sent information on how much they are required to pay in March 2013.