Plans to cut council tax benefits and discounts in Norwich

PUBLISHED: 06:30 06 September 2012

Norwich City Councillor Alan Waters.

Norwich City Councillor Alan Waters.

Archant 2011

City bosses are exploring plans to cut council tax exemptions for second homes and empty homes, as well support for those on low or no incomes.

Norwich City Council wants to ask members of the public for their views on how it should address a £1.5m gap in benefit funding.

In the coming months, it will also have to find a further £1.6m of savings and decide whether to introduce council tax rises for the first time in three years.

In April 2013, the Government will abolish the existing council tax benefit scheme which helps those on low or no income and has told local councils to come up with their own locally-run scheme.

But the city council will receive a grant which will be 10pc less than in previous years for the 19,000 households currently receiving this help, and with a £15m in total that means a gap of £1.5m.

Of these households, an estimated 40pc are of a pensionable age and will not be affected as the Government has also said pensioner households cannot lose any of their council tax benefit.

The council wants to make up part of the gap by a reduction in council tax exemptions and discounts on second homes and empty properties.

It is now consulting with Norfolk County Council and Norfolk Police Authority to see if the rest can be met through the three organisations’ existing budgets.

If this cannot happen, one alternative is to cut support for people on low or no incomes. Cabinet members meet on Wednesday, September 12, to decide which option to put out to public consultation, which will take place from September 13 to December 6, before final decisions are made next year.

Councillor Alan Waters, deputy leader and portfolio holder for resources, said: “These changes to council tax benefit are being brought in by the Government and we have to make them work as best we can. They confront us with some very hard choices indeed and setting up a local council tax benefit scheme would cost a lot in time and resources.

“We are committed to listening to what people have to say and to trying to protect the most vulnerable. A lot of the people who may lose out are working people on low incomes who are already struggling so it is a very difficult set of options.”

The council is also preparing its budget for 2013-14 and needs to find a further £1.6m of savings or additional income, in addition to the £20m in savings it has delivered over the past four years.

It also has to decide whether or not to increase council tax.

Results from the wider consultation will be reviewed by cabinet on January 16, 2013. The final decision on the council tax reduction scheme will be taken by full council on January 29 and on the council’s budget and council tax on February 21.

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