Teignbridge Approves Changes To Welfare Benefits and Council Tax Homes Exemptions
Big changes are being made to the council tax benefit system and how council tax is paid on certain homes in Teignbridge.
A Special Meeting of Teignbridge District Council approved major new changes to the Council Tax Benefit system and how much Council Tax is paid on second and empty homes.
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The changes go under the titles of Localisation of Council Tax Benefit and Technical Reforms to Council Tax. They come into force in April 2013 as part of the Government's welfare reforms and localisation agenda.
The Teignbridge schemes have been designed to protect the most vulnerable, help ease the burden for hard-pressed families who are already struggling with the rise in the cost of living and encourage empty homes back into use.
Around 2,000 of the 60,000 households in the district are affected.
The first change centres on the new and localised Council Tax support scheme, which replaces the national benefit scheme.
Teignbridge's scheme will maintain a council tax benefit system like the national framework but with one change: to abolish the Second Adult Rebate.
Currently 'Second Adult Rebate' can apply when there is one person in a property who would normally pay Council Tax, if they live with someone over the age of 18 on a low income (provided this person is not a partner, lodger or tenant). However it doesn't take into account the main householder's income or their ability to pay.
Under the new system, this rebate would be abolished and the main householder would have to pay their full liability.
This will impact on around 100 claimants. All those affected were contacted directly by Teignbridge to explain the possible changes and are being given any necessary advice or help.
The current scheme is 100% funded by Government but the new localised Council Tax Support scheme is only 90% funded centrally, meaning Teignbridge had to find £1Million to cover the shortfall for the area. This is partly being addressed through the second change, which relates to the Council Tax Technical Reform proposals.
This redefines how much Council Tax is paid on empty or second homes.
These reforms are:
- Removing the 10% council tax discount for people who own a second home meaning they will now pay the full 100% of Council Tax. This affects 1,000 homes.
- Adding a 50% premium to long-term empty homes to encourage properties that have been empty for two years or more back into use. This affects 100 homes.
- Reducing the twelve month 100% discount given to people with unoccupied properties that are undergoing major repair to 50%. This affects 50 homes.
- Reducing the six months 100% discount for unoccupied and unfurnished properties to 100% for one month. This affects 800 homes.
Cllr Stuart Barker, Deputy Leader of Teignbridge District Council said:
"The schemes been designed to be cost neutral and affecting the least amount of people possible. The only other alternative would have been to ask people who are on low wages and have a low income to start paying more towards their Council Tax. At a time when people are already struggling this is not something we wanted to do.
"Quite rightly pensioners have been protected from any cuts in Council Tax Benefit and we also took into account the needs of other vulnerable people.
"A number of empty homes will continue to be exempt and unaffected by these changes – like, for example, where an empty house is in probate. We also have some discretion to help those in exceptional circumstances and these will be looked at on a case by case basis.
"We listened closely to what people were telling us through the consultation and we have come up with an answer which is fair, consistent and affects the least amount of people possible."
Council Tax Support Schemes vary from district to district because funds are different as are the number of pensioners who must be taken care of first. Teignbridge worked with other authorities across Devon to make sure a fair and consistent framework is in place. Pensioners are NOT affected by the changes.
All taxpayers in Teignbridge need to be aware of the changes because Council Tax forms part of the overall tax system in the UK and it's important that everyone understands the new arrangements.
In agreeing the proposals Teignbridge took into account that it has the highest Council Tax Benefits caseload and cost of all Devon districts and the second highest pensioner caseload percentage of Devon districts.
The Council consulted with local residents and bodies like the Citizens' Advice Bureau, Housing Associations who find affordable homes for lower paid people, welfare groups and pensioners' organisations.
Letters are being sent to all the households affected. Help and advice is being offered to residents who need it. Information is also being put on the council's website www.teignbridge.gov.uk