"Fairer" council tax support scheme will hit hundreds of Woking's poorer residents, councillor says
By mattcollison | Tuesday, February 19, 2013, 14:56
HUNDREDS of Woking residents will be affected by changes to the way council tax is to be paid in the borough.
Some residents could struggle to pay council tax bills when new changes come into force in April, a councillor has warned.
Woking Borough Council has agreed its own version of the Coalition government's Local Council Tax Support Scheme - which aims to get everyone of working age paying towards their council tax.
At a meeting on January 24 it agreed a system which it said met the Government's demands but would not have such a wide ranging impact on those who would struggle to pay.
Woking's variation of the scheme, which comes into force in April, will see the second adult rebate scheme removed, benefits being limited to a level of Band D council tax and a miminum weekly benefit payment of £5.
The amount of savings residents can have and still claim council tax benefit is reduced to £10,000.
Among the biggest losers to the scheme will be those living in more expensive areas of Woking who previously relied on council tax benefits.
Writing on her blog, councillor Anne Marie-Barker (Lib Dem, Horsell West) said 160 residents will be affected by this particular change.
She said: "Council Tax benefit will only be paid for the amount due on a Band D property. So if a resident lives in a Band E property they would need to pay the difference between the two bands. This affects 160 Woking residents. The difference between Band D and Band E Council Tax was £346.20 in 2012/13.
"I made the point at the Council meeting that this may impact those who happen to live in a more expensive area who would need to find several hundred pounds more per year when food, gas and electric prices are already rising."
Some 275 residents will also be affected by losing council tax benefit which is less than £5 a week.
Cllr Barker said: "I'm not happy with this scheme but it is sadly something that had to be done. I am satisfied it is the best of a bad job.
"Council officers in Woking really did work hard to find a scheme that had least impact. The logic of charging more to those who have least is totally beyond me."
Between 15 October and 7 December 2012, the Council carried out an eight-week consultation with residents and key stakeholders on the proposal.
Cllr John Kingsbury, Leader of Woking Borough Council, said: "We have had to make some difficult decisions because of the reduction in funding from central government.
"Working with other authorities across Surrey, we have sought to offset the cost of the Local Council Tax Support scheme, while limiting the adverse affect on those in greatest need."
For more information go to www.woking.gov.uk/benefits/welfarebenefitchanges