Council tax benefit cuts to affect more than 10,000 people in North East Lincolnshire
MORE than 10,000 people in North East Lincolnshire will be up to £127 per year worse off when cuts to council tax benefit are introduced in April.
Those currently in receipt of council tax benefit will have it reduced by 8.5 per cent – meaning up to £127 of extra payments to be made each year for people living in an average-sized property.
However, disabled people, parents with children under five and pensioners will be shielded – and the 8.5 per cent is significantly less than the 24 per cent proposed in the summer when the Government first announced funding for the benefit would be cut by £1.6-million.
Since then, North East Lincolnshire Council (NELC) has been given a £300,000 transitional grant in exchange for limiting the rise to 8.5 per cent – but it has still cost £500,000, which it has withdrawn from reserve funds.
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NELC has also set up a £160,000 support fund for those put in dire financial difficulty by the changes, although it still expects a drop in collections of 0.4 per cent, according to a report approved by cabinet on Monday.
Councillor Darren Billard, portfolio holder for finance, governance and support services for NELC, said: "This is an important step to protect our residents, who, like the council, are facing very difficult financial times because of this Government's austerity programme which is hitting some of the most vulnerable in society."
However, he said further cuts will have come into force in the coming years to meet the £1.6-million shortfall when council tax benefit is replaced by the Local Council Tax Support Scheme (LCTSS) in April.
"We will eventually have to pass these costs on to the taxpayer as we cannot afford to cover them forever and the transitional grant is only confirmed for next year," he said.
"A decision has not yet been made on when this will be as we don't know how the situation will change, but the one thing I can tell you about these cuts is that they keep on coming."
Under the LCTSS a single person on Jobseekers Allowance, living in a Band D house in Grimsby would have to contribute £127 towards their £1,500 annual council tax bill – if it does not rise in April – while currently, the benefit covers the whole amount.
Working people and families on a low income who receive council tax benefit to cover part of their bill will also lose 8.5 per cent of what they currently receive.
Allen Young, project director at Harbour Place Day Centre, which supports homeless and other vulnerable groups, said that our area will be disproportionately effected because of its high unemployment.
"There is only so much money to go round and vulnerable people are already having to deal with rising utility bills, higher food prices and other benefit cuts," he said.
"Governments and councils are having to tighten their budgets and there will be more cuts to come – only time will tell as to what the true impact on the area will be."