Council tax bill fear for benefit claimants

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Benefit claimants in the Dales will have to pay higher council tax bills as part of controversial Coalition cuts.

Government reforms have forced local authorities across the country to adopt a new system for calculating benefits, sparking fears among many that struggling families will be pushed into hardship.

From April 2013, working-age claimants who get full benefits will be required to make a contribution to their council tax bill.

In the Derbyshire Dales the contribution will be set at 8.5 per cent, which means that claimants living in a band A property will be expected to pay around £87 per year.

Cllr Lewis Rose, Leader of Derbyshire Dales District Council, said: “The government has given us no choice but to make changes that will affect local people. We have worked hard to develop a scheme that balances the need for savings with maintaining protection for vulnerable households.”

In the Derbyshire Dales there are currently 4,318 households that receive council tax benefit, of which 2,402 are protected pensioners. That means some 1,916 households could be affected by the benefit reductions.

Kris Ambler of Advice Derbyshire said: “We’ve seen an increase in the number of people seeking advice about these forthcoming changes, and our fear is that there hasn’t been enough time for people to adjust to what could be a significant reduction in their income.

“As a result we’re likely to see more people getting into financial difficulty, rent arrears and debt at a time when many people feel their finances have already been squeezed to breaking point.”

Derbyshire Dales District Council is also looking at reducing discounts on empty properties and second homes, but an exact figure will be discussed at a later date.

The authority also intends that empty and unfurnished homes will have the 100 per cent discount on council tax removed after three month instead of six.