COUNCILLORS have recommended not to increase the cut in levels of Council Tax Benefit from next year to help hard-pressed families in the town.
At the end of March 2013, the Government abolished its national Council Tax Benefits scheme and ordered councils to set up their own known as Local Council Tax Support (LCTS) scheme.
At the same time, the Government cut the funding to administer the scheme, which equated to 13.4 per cent for Hartlepool, and further funding cuts are being made in 2015/16.
Councils were also required to fully protect low-income pensioners, which potentially pushed up the funding cut for working age households to around 20 per cent.
Although many councils immediately introduced the 20 per cent cut in April 2013, Hartlepool Council limited the cut to 8.5 per cent in 2013/14 and 12 per cent in 2014/15 to help families facing financial pressures.
Councillors are expected to maintain the cut at 12 per cent following a recent meeting of the council’s Finance & Policy Committee.
Committee chairman Councillor Christopher Akers-Belcher, said: “Ever since the LCTS scheme was introduced, we have tried very hard to cushion the blow on local people by using money set aside for this purpose, including our Family Poverty Fund.
“Councillors talk to people every day and fully understand how families are being severely hit by the Government’s various welfare reform changes and as councillors we have a responsibility to ease that burden if we can.”
Neighbouring councils increased the cut by 20 per cent from April 2013.
This means that based on the LCTS scheme cuts since April 2013 and proposed schemes for 2015/16, the 5,425 Hartlepool families living in Band A properties will receive £310 more support than families in neighbouring towns.
The final decision on Hartlepool’s LCTS scheme will be agreed by the Full Council in December.
Councillors have also recently recommended that Council Tax is frozen for a fifth successive year in Hartlepool, despite the Government cutting the Council’s grant support by £8.2m in 2015/16.