Consultation starts on Council Tax changes for Rotherham.
Published Tuesday 25th September 12
Rotherham residents are being asked for their views on a new discount Council Tax scheme being proposed for the borough.
Public consultation will start next week (Monday, September 24) on a new local Council Tax support scheme being proposed by the Council in wake of the radical shake-up of the Government's funding system, which will leave the authority with a multi-million pound shortfall.
Members of the Council's Cabinet agreed on Wednesday September 19 that local residents should have eight weeks to comment on the proposed new local Council Tax Support scheme, together with other Council Tax changes. Their responses will then be considered before any final scheme is agreed and formally adopted by the Council.
The Cabinet heard that from April next year the Government will abolish the current national Council Tax Benefit scheme, which funds 100 per cent of Council Tax benefits. During 2011/12 the Council awarded some £22.8 million to 31,000 claimants, of whom 15,000 were pensioners.
However, the national scheme is to be replaced by local ones to be set up by individual local authorities, who will each receive a set figure as an annual grant. The Government is to reduce the grant by ten per cent of the amount paid out in Council Tax benefit. Rotherham estimates that the government proposals could result in at least a £4.1 million funding shortfall at a time when more working age people are claiming due to the continued economic downturn.
Information regarding the changes is available online or a printed leaflet may be obtained from all Rotherham Council customer service centres.
The changes being proposed in the Rotherham Council Tax Support scheme include:
* Introducing a maximum level of Council Tax support for working age claimants meaning all will pay a portion of their Council Tax.
* The abolition of the current second adult rebate
* Removing the current 50 per cent discount for second homes
* Replacing the current 100 per cent exemption for homes undergoing major structural repair with a 25 per cent discount
* Replacing the current 100 per cent exemption for vacant and unfurnished properties in the first six months with a 25 per cent discount
* Removing the current 50 per cent discount for vacant and unfurnished properties between six months and two years and making a full charge
* Charging an additional 50 per cent premium for vacant and unfurnished properties over two years meaning these properties would receive a 150 per cent charge
Cllr Jahangir Akhtar, Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Resources, described the changes as being 'far-reaching' and so urged the public to make their views known.
He said: "We are having to make these very big changes because by abolishing the current national Council Tax Benefit scheme the Government is leaving Rotherham with a huge shortfall that we currently use to help those vulnerable and most in need across Rotherham.
"Obviously the changes could affect a great many people - Council Tax payers and working age claimants - as well as the Council itself. That is why we need to hear everyone's views on our proposals. The authority has until the end of January to adopt a local scheme - if we don't, the Government's default scheme will be imposed on the borough which will result in severe financial implications for the Council."