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Give your views on Dorset tax benefit changes
COUNCILS across Dorset are seeking opinions on controversial changes to council tax benefits due to be introduced next year.
As part of the government’s welfare reforms, council tax benefit will be abolished from next April, with local councils ordered to devise their own schemes to help poorer residents pay their bills.
Local authorities will be given 10 per cent less funding than in the current national system.
Bournemouth, Poole and Dorset councils are launching a consultation on the plans, due to start today and take place until Monday, November 5.
The three councils have been working together on the schemes, which will maintain support for pensioners and vulnerable people, but are proposing most working age residents, who qualify for council tax support, will be required to pay a minimum contribution to their council tax. Householders who have a second adult on a low income living with them will also be affected with everyone of working age currently receiving council tax benefit being written to regarding the changes.
David Barnes, project leader of the pan-Dorset group said: “The government has given us a real challenge by transferring responsibility to local councils to deliver a suitable scheme while reducing funding by 10 per cent.
“This is a complicated issue and we have had to take some difficult dec-isions in coming up with our draft schemes.
“In essence our draft council tax support schemes mean that all benefit claimants of working age, except the most vulnerable, will now have to pay something towards their council tax in line with the government’s aim to encourage unemployed people back into work and make work pay.
“Pensioners and other vulnerable people will not be affected and will continue to receive the same level of support as now.”
Mr Barnes, who is strategic director at Christchurch and East Dorset Partnership, said they had tried to make the changes as fair as possible to those affected.
Other groups of people exempt from the draft schemes include the severely disabled, people with a disability receiving certain disability benefits, people who have a disabled child, full-time carers receiving Carer’s Allowance and also those receiving war disablement, war widows or widowers pension.
Following the consultation, the final decision on council tax support schemes will be made by the end of January 2013 and take effect from April 2013.
Visit Bournemouth, Poole and Dorset council websites to respond to the consultation.