Council prepares for benefits overhaul
HIGH Peak people are to be consulted on major changes planned for the council tax benefits system.
The Government is to replace council tax benefit with a new scheme of localised support from next April as part of a radical package of welfare reform.
The shake-up will require borough councils, such as High Peak, to introduce a new form of discount for people who need help paying their council tax.
But local authorities will be expected to spend 10 per cent less than they currently pay out in council tax benefit. A 10 per cent saving would mean an overall reduction of around £699,000.
According to latest figures, the changes will affect 7,973 people. However, 3,573 of those residents will be protected because they are pensioners. That means that 4,400 residents of working age will have their council tax benefit reduced.
The aim of the welfare reforms is to cut public spending and encourage claimants to find work.
In High Peak, the borough council is planning an extensive programme of public consultation that will include discussions with claimants.
Drop-in sessions for claimants will take place from 3pm to 7pm as follows:
- Monday, September 24, Volunteer Centre, Howard Town House, High Street East, Glossop
- Monday, October 1, Methodist Church, Chapel Street, Buxton
- Wednesday, October 10, Volunteer Centre, Union Road, New Mills.
The only ways in which the council could reduce the impact would be to cut other services or increase its income, for example by removing the council tax discount on second homes.
As well as holding focus groups with voluntary sector organisations and community groups, the council has published a web survey to invite the general public to have its say on the reforms and ways in which the authority might absorb the impact. The consultation ends at 5pm on Friday, November 9.
Tim Norton, executive councillor for corporate services, said: “We have no choice but to make these changes, and the only way in which we can reduce the impact is by increasing our income in other ways or by cutting back on vital services.
“And it’s important to stress that, apart from these reforms, public services are likely to come under further pressure following the next public spending review. These anticipated cuts are against the backdrop of a 26 per cent fall in Government funding over the last two years”, he pointed out.
Last updated: 23rd January 2013