City Hall in Norwich. Photo: Nick Butcher.

Labour councillors back proposals to spare 19,000 Norwich homes from government benefit cuts

Tuesday, January 15, 2013
7.00 AM

Proposals to spare 19,000 Norwich households from government-enforced cuts could deprive Norfolk police and council budgets of more than £250,000.

Norwich City Council expects to lose £1.5m a year of its grant to pay council tax support from April, as part of government attempts to reduce the national benefits bill.

Local authorities have been informed to either find ways of raising the shortfall or cut support offered to low-earners and unemployed people. They must also protect pensioners from cuts.

The Labour-controlled city council cabinet last night backed plans to raise approximately £850,000 a year by various methods, including reducing discounts on second homes from 10pc to 5pc, and charging 100pc council tax on properties empty between six and 12 months.

The authority also expects to receive government transitional funding to help with the change-over.

But figures show the council is likely to collect £293,000 less in 2013/14 than 2012/13.

This loss, split equally among the authorities who receive money from council tax, is expected to reduce income for the city council by £42,000, by £214,000 for Norfolk County Council and by £37,000 for Norfolk Constabulary.

The county council is also contributing £30,000 to the city council’s extra costs to collect the tax.

Alan Waters, cabinet member for finance, told last night’s cabinet meeting: “There are 19,000 families in Norwich who have council tax benefit. There is an unspecified number of people who don’t claim council tax benefit and are entitled to do so.”

James Wright, Liberal Democrat group leader, said he was disappointed national politicians had not agreed to amendments made by Lib Dem peer Lord Tope to allow councils to lower single persons discount.

Mr Wright said this would have made a “fairly awful piece of legislation slightly easier to deal with”.

Bert Bremner, cabinet member for transport, added: “A Labour motion went to the county council and the whole of the county council, every single party, there was a vast majority, was most appalled with this legislation and asked for it to be reconsidered.”