Final vote on cut to council tax benefits

CLAIMANTS of council tax benefit look set to have their support cut by almost a third after senior councillors recommended a new scheme this week.

At a meeting on Tuesday, Kirklees Council’s cabinet voted against applying for a government grant that would reduce benefit cuts in the short term.

Cabinet member Coun David Sheard said in order to get the grant, the council would have to make cuts to other services.

Instead, the cabinet decided to recommend a scheme that would – if approved at a meeting of all councillors last night – mean big cuts for many council tax benefit claimants in April.

Local authorities, including Kirklees, are being forced to cut the amount of money they currently spend on council tax benefit payments.

The benefit is being replaced by a new council tax support scheme which will have 10 per cent less government funding than the current system.

Councils have to come up with a scheme to decide how to pass on the 10 per cent cut without reducing payments to pensioners and other vulnerable people.

Under Kirklees’ proposed scheme, single parents with a child under five, those on disability benefits and people who get war pensions or war widow’s pensions will be protected from the cut, as well as pensioners.

But this means the rest of the working age population will have their council tax benefit cut by 29 per cent. And those who have the whole cost of their council tax bill covered by council tax benefit will have to start paying 29 per cent of the bill themselves from April.

The council’s plan was put out to consultation in August.

During Tuesday’s cabinet meeting Coun Sheard said the process showed people were “overwhelmingly in favour of the scheme we are proposing”.

But after the consultation started, the government announced a £100m grant to help local authorities reduce the size of the council tax benefit cuts they would have to make.

Kirklees could get £770,695 if it applied for the grant, enabling it to make a smaller cut to claimants’ payments.

But winning the grant would mean Kirklees could not cut council tax benefits by any more than 8.5 per cent, instead of the 29 per cent it has proposed.

The government grant and an 8.5 per cent cut would not be enough to make up the overall 10 per cent cut, so the council would still have a shortfall of £1.37m to make up.

Coun Sheard said this would result in cuts to services.

Instead, the cabinet voted against applying for the government grant and in favour of pressing ahead with the 29 per cent cut it had put out to consultation. A final decision was due to be made at a meeting of the full council last night.