Hartlepool residents to have say on changes to local council tax benefit scheme

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RESIDENTS are being asked to have their say on a proposal to change the local council tax benefit scheme.

In April the Government made local councils responsible for schemes to provide help with Council Tax, known as the Local Council Tax Support (LCTS) scheme.

At the same time the Government reduced its funding to Hartlepool by 13.4 per cent which meant that the council was no longer able to provide the level of help provided previously.

The Government also announced that pensioners would be protected under the new scheme, meaning that the burden would fall on households of working age, including many people in low-paid jobs.

Despite the funding cut, Hartlepool Council agreed a LCTS scheme in the current financial year which limited the cut to 8.5 per cent.

At a recent meeting of the council’s Finance and Policy Committee, councillors proposed to increase the reduction to 12 per cent in 2014/15 in light of the ongoing cuts in funding.

Councillor Christopher Akers-Belcher, leader of the council and chair of the Finance and Policy Committee, said: “Hartlepool Council has objected strongly to the Government over these changes which are impacting on some of the most vulnerable households in the town.

“Residents are being hit on a number of fronts with the various welfare reform changes and despite the pressures the council is facing, we have a moral responsibility to provide every bit of help we can to ease the pain and financial struggle for the people of our town.

“We want to explore the possibility of increasing the cut to 12 per cent from April and whilst we acknowledge that it would still be an unwelcome increase for many households, we believe it could be managed within our limited finances.”

People have until Monday, December 30, to tell the council what they think before a final decision is made.

Copies of the consultation leaflet are at the Civic Centre and Central Library, in York Road.

Alternatively, respond online at https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/LCTS2013.

For further information telephone John Morton on (01429) 523003 or email john.morton@hartlepool.gov.uk.