Have a say on council tax benefit cuts in North East Lincolnshire
MORE than 10,000 people in North East Lincolnshire will receive 24 per cent less in benefits to pay their council tax bills.
This is the situation facing residents as the council is forced to find ways to cover a £1.6 million cut to cash from the Government.
From April next year, the grant given to councils across England to meet the cost of council tax benefit will reduce by ten per cent.
This equates to a £1.6 million decrease to the money available here in North East Lincolnshire, so the council is asking residents to give their views on the introduction of a new scheme.
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The authority is asking your thoughts on the introduction of a localised council tax support scheme for the 22,000 claimants in the area, which is affordable within the remaining grant.
This means that roughly 10,500 people will receive about 24 per cent less benefit to help meet their council tax bill.
Pensioners, individuals in receipt of disability benefit and families with children under five years old will still receive the same level of support as within the existing system.
A support fund of £160,000 would be created to provide emergency support to people in dire need of financial help as a result of the changes.
NELC rejected an option to consult on keeping the council tax support programme the same as the current benefit scheme, and meeting the cost of the reduced government grant through increased council tax or cutting other services.
North East Lincolnshire Council's portfolio holder for finance, governance and support services, Labour councillor Darren Billard, said: "These are the first of many Government cuts which will affect those who receive welfare benefits, and I would strongly urge everyone to have a look at the proposals.
"The council has carefully considered the needs of the vulnerable people and the requirements put on us by central government, including the council's dependency on council tax income.
"We have put forward a proposal to protect those in receipt of disability benefit and those with children under five, including pensioners.
"We do believe it is vital that all of these groups receive support from us, not only for them but also to reduce the longer-term impact on the wider community."
The Liberal Democrats believe that preferred option is also the best available in the current economic climate.
Councillor Andrew De Freitas said: "I support this option chosen by the council.
"Part of it includes having £160,000 available for emergency support, which is also the best that is available."
Councillor Keith Brookes, the leader of the Conservative group, said: "Expenditure increased from £2 billion to £4.3 billion from 1998 to 2010 under the Labour government.
"Welfare spending in cash terms also doubled in the last year Labour was in control. This resulted in £192 billion in welfare payments.
"The spending was more than the combined defence, education and health spending.
"We need to get people back into work. The most any family will get is £26,000 from the state, when you put all the benefits together.
"What we need to do now is wait and see which scheme supports genuine people who need it."
Angie Ridgwell, the interim chief finance officer at NELC, added: "We are advised to consult on a specific scheme, which we have done.
"We want as many people as possible to look at the proposals and let us know what they think."
Cleethorpes Michael Breckon, 63, said: "I don't think it's right to make a few individuals suffer because of Government cuts.
"If anything, our council should choose an option which will solve the council tax benefit issue at a price which means everyone is affected."
To find out more and have your say on the new proposal, visit www.nelincs.gov.uk/counciltaxconsultation before Friday, October 12.
A final decision will be made by early November, and the changes will be introduced from April 2013.
Air your views by commenting on this article.