Council tax support scheme to protect the most vulnerable

Leading councillors have backed a plan to protect the most vulnerable people in South Cambridgeshire despite reductions in national funding for council tax support.

South Cambridgeshire District Council’s (SCDC) cabinet on Thursday (November 8) endorsed a localised council tax support scheme, which will not see significant reductions in money being received by claimants despite around £1 million less funding being provided to the Council.

Under the Cabinet backed plans, the majority of people in need of support will not see any change to the council tax discount they currently receive. Before the new scheme comes into force in April next year, district councillors must give their approval at a meeting of Full Council in January.

During a consultation ahead of a draft plan being presented to councillors, residents supported plans to remove council tax discounts for people who own an empty or second property, meaning extra revenue generated can be used to offset the reduction in government funding and support vulnerable groups on low incomes.

A 50 per cent council tax premium would also be charged on properties that remain empty for more than two years to encourage them to be brought back into use.

Government guidelines mean there couldn’t be any changes to the help pensioners currently receive, and SCDC has also chosen to fully protected people with disabilities, their careers, as well as lone parents with children under five – totalling around three quarters of households claiming support.

SCDC will now apply for extra funding from the Department for Communities and Local Government to help with the transition to a localised council tax support scheme.

This funding is only available to councils who fully protect the most vulnerable groups and reductions to other claimants are not reduced by more than 8.5 per cent.

Cllr Simon Edwards, SCDC deputy leader and cabinet member for finance, said: “I fully support the scheme put forward as it will protect the most vulnerable people in the district.

“The fact is we have less money to provide help, but residents have played a big part in helping to devise such a good scheme and we would like to thank them for taking part in our consultation.

“Any reduction in support is always difficult, but by removing some of the discounts to people with an empty or second home for example, we have managed to make sure people on low incomes are not hit as hard.”

For all the latest news see Thursday’s (November 29) Echo.