Uttlesford proposes changes to Council Tax support

Uttlesford District Council's offices

Uttlesford District Council's offices - Credit: Archant

Uttlesford District Council (UDC) is proposing changes to the authority’s Local Council Tax Support scheme from next April following public support for the move.

The council is also proposing a number of amendments to the Council Tax discounts for second homes and empty homes. All these proposals will be considered by full council on December 10 following endorsement by the cabinet.

Under the new Local Council Tax Support scheme proposal, working-age claimants may now have to pay a minimum of 12.5 per cent of their Council Tax from April 1, 2014.

Although this is an increase from the present 8.5 per cent figure, the council has said it is still the lowest contribution in Essex. The average impact on the 1,300 affected households in the district will be an additional 90 pence per week.

Public consultation on these changes was carried out from July to September and showed that the majority of respondents (58 per cent) supported this proposal, according to UDC.

The council is not recommending any other changes to the scheme, which means pensioners, people with disabilities and their carers who qualify for Local Council Tax Support will be fully protected. These groups will receive the same entitlement as would have been received under the Department of Work and Pensions Council Tax Benefit Scheme which ended on the March 31, 2013.

The council has also reviewed the Council Tax discounts relating to second homes and empty homes and the following proposals subject to full approval by full council could also come into effect from April 1, 2014.

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Public consultation showed there was strong support for:

1. Removing the 10 per cent discount for second homes;

2. Reducing the empty homes Class A (major repairs) discount from 100 per cent for up to 12 months to 50 per cent for up to 12 months;

3. Reducing the empty homes Class C (vacant dwellings) discount from 100 per cent for up to 6 months to 50 per cent for up to 6 months;

4. Introducing an Empty Homes Premium of 50 per cent for dwellings which have been unfurnished and empty for more than two years.

Cllr Robert Chambers, cabinet member for finance, said: “In introducing Local Council Tax Support, the Government reduced the amount of money made available to local authorities, with an expectation that this reduction would be passed on to claimants.

“In order to help people, we were able to introduce the scheme last year at a low rate and have considered very carefully the appropriate level of support for working age claimants from next April. The consultation exercise carried out earlier this year demonstrates support for this proposed modest increase.”

He added: “People who claim the state pension, people with disabilities including those who are registered blind, and people who are carers will still not be affected by this change. It applies to people of working age only.

“The changes being recommended around second homes and empty homes make good sense, particularly in the current economic climate.”