Uttlesford District Councillors have approved a number of amendments to the Local Council Tax Support Scheme and changes to council tax discounts relating to second homes and empty homes at their full council meeting on December 10.
From April 1, 2014, working age claimants will now have to pay a minimum of 12.5 per cent of their council tax. Although this is an increase from the present 8.5 per cent, it is still the lowest contribution in the whole of Essex.
The average impact on the 1,300 affected households in the district will be an additional 90 pence a week.
The council will soon be contacting those people, who are likely to be affected by these changes, in the New Year to inform and to offer financial advice.
It is also working in partnership with the Citizens Advice Bureau and Essex County Council to provide financial planning advice and guidance to help people plan for these changes.
Cllr Robert Chambers, cabinet member for finance at Uttlesford District Council said: “I am pleased that councillors have given their full support to the changes in the LCTS that we need to make in order to manage the impact of Government funding cuts whilst ensuring fair outcomes for all Council Tax payers.
“Despite these changes, we can still offer the lowest district council tax in Essex and this clearly shows what we are doing to help those low income families and vulnerable people living in our district.
“Since 1 April 2013 the Council’s Revenue Services have put in place a full time dedicated Revenues officer; who is available for advice at the Council Offices or by telephone (including home visits if necessary) to provide specific financial and Welfare benefit advice including budget planning to those residents affected by the Welfare cuts.
“We are also working hard with our partners at the CAB and ECC to ensure that residents can access debt management and financial planning courses such as household budget and cooking on a budget courses. The CAB also has a money doctor team who are on hand to provide support.
“An Exceptional Hardship Fund has been set up which will provide additional support for genuine extreme hardship cases and we have totally disregarded child benefit and child maintenance when calculating people’s entitlement to LCTS.
“I want to stress that those people who claim the state pension, people with disabilities including those who are registered blind, and people who are carers will not be affected by these changes.”
Councillors also approved the proposal to remove or reduce the Council Tax discounts on the following types of properties; Second homes (unoccupied and furnished) 10 per discount to be removed; Class D discount (uninhabitable properties) 100 per cent discount for 12 months to be reduced to 50 per cent; Class C (unoccupied and unfurnished properties) 100 per cent discount for 6 month to be reduce to 50 per cent.
A new 50 per cent premium will be introduced for properties which have been empty and unfurnished for more than two years.
This will increase the charge for these properties to 150 per cent, annexes and homes of service personnel will be excluded from this premium.
Cllr Chambers concluded: “The changes around second homes and empty homes do make good sense, particularly in the current economic climate.”
For further information on the help and support available please contact Revenue Services on 01799 510510 or email firstname.lastname@example.org or go to www.uttlesford.gov.uk/lcts