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Needy facing blow to council tax help

Telford | News | Published:

Residents claiming thousands of pounds a year in benefits could soon be exempt from getting help to pay their council tax under new cost-cutting measures.

The proposed cap would apply to couples and single parents living with children who receive £20,000 or more a year in state benefits and are of working age in Telford & Wrekin.

For single people, also aged between 16 and 64, the cap would be £13,400. Currently, there is no cap on the level of council tax support people can receive.

But the new proposals, which would affect around 100 people in the borough, would limit the number of people eligible for the Council Tax Support Scheme.

A major consultation has begun on the proposed changes that would come into force in April next year by the authority.

The move would also see tighter regulations over self-employed people claiming council tax support.

It would see an estimated minimum weekly income level for self-employed people trading for more than 12 months and would impact on 460 people in the borough.

Emily Taylor, spokesman for Telford & Wrekin Council, said: "We have many self-employed customers who are claiming to be working at least 16 hours a week on their business, but after years of trading they are still declaring no profit to us.

"We are therefore proposing that from April 2016, if you are self employed, we will accept whatever amount of profit you declare to us for the first year of trading.

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"However, after a year, if the business is still trading it is the only form of employment of the customer, we will assume they are in receipt of a minimum national income from the business when we calculate how much council tax support to award.

"This will be national minimum wage multiplied by 30 hours per week."

The authority says it must make £35 million of cuts from its budget over the next three years, after already cutting its budget by £70 million since 2010. That means that by 2019 total cuts will amount to over £100 million.

Changes in the law in 2013, replaced the National Council Tax Benefit Scheme with ones decided locally by councils.

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Pensioners, anyone classed as severely disabled or in receipt of war disablement or war widow pension will not be affected by the proposed changes.

The council estimates that these changes would next year reduce its annual bill for Council Tax Support by £222,000 to around £11.8 million.

Councillor Lee Carter, cabinet member for finance at T&WC, said: "Given the continuing cuts in Government grant and the £35 million we have to make on top of the £70 million of savings we have already made since 2010, we must look at every possible avenue for savings.

"We want our Council Tax Support scheme to be fair to everyone, to encourage people to find work and ensure that work pays and to support our most vulnerable citizens where possible."

"We really want to hear the views of everyone in the borough on these changes, whether you're receiving Council Tax Support or not.

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