Leeds residents asked for their views on council tax support options

People in Leeds are being asked for their views on how Leeds City Council could best provide support when council tax benefit ends next year.

From April 2013, the government has decided that it will end council tax benefit. Instead, the government has said that councils must put in place local council tax support schemes for people who need help with paying their council tax.

To make sure the council puts the right support scheme in place, it is asking Leeds residents to look at the council’s options and share their views. People of working age who currently receive council tax benefit are also being sent surveys to complete.
The amount of money Leeds City Council will get from the government to pay for its new scheme will be about 10 per cent less than it currently receives for council tax benefit. This could see a shortfall in funding of more than £6 million. This will be on top of additional cuts of around £40 million that the council must make across all services due to reduced government funding.
Pensioners who receive council tax benefit will be protected from this change, so this means that the full cost of the reduction in funding will fall on those of working age.

Councillor Keith Wakefield leader of Leeds City Council said:
“We have some really difficult decisions to make as these changes will affect some of the most vulnerable people in our city, and will leave us with even less money to support them. We already have massive savings to make, so this will put even more strain on the money we need to spend on essential services.

“This is why we need to know what people in Leeds think about the choices we have to make, so we can make the best decision in these difficult circumstances.”

There are two options under consideration. Option one would see a reduction in council tax support by around 30% - which would mean the council wouldn’t need to use any other money to fund this. This option would mean money would not need to be taken away from other council services.

For option two the council would put extra money into the scheme for the first year to reduce the cuts that people face in their council tax support. This option would limit the cut in support to 10 per cent for most working age claimants, but would mean the council would need to divert money away from other services.

The survey also asks for residents views on charging council tax on empty properties and second homes. As part of the government’s changes it has said councils can decide when to start charging on empty properties, so Leeds City Council would like to know what its residents think about the options available to it. Currently the owners of properties which are empty for a short time, are not charged council tax for either six or 12 months. If the council was able to charge council tax for these properties it would generate extra income at a time when government funding for councils is reducing. The extra income could help to protect council services.

The deadline to reply to the consultation is 8 November 2012. A final decision on the new scheme will be made early in the new year.

As well as completing the surveys people can share their views online at www.leeds.gov.uk/counciltaxconsultation. Help and information about the survey is available by calling 0113 376 0408.

For media enquiries, please contact:
Emma Whittell, Leeds City Council press office, on (0113) 2474713
Email: emma.whittell@leeds.gov.uk