North Lincs pensioners will get help with council tax bills but other groups may miss out
Plans to minimise the impact of a £1.3 million funding cut at North Lincolnshire Council without increasing council tax charges have been discussed by councillors.
The authority will next year be hit by a 10 per cent drop in Government funding to meet the cost of its council tax benefit bill.
The move will take effect across the country from April and means councils must find ways of plugging the funding gap.
This can be done by introducing alternative support schemes or keeping the current system and raising council tax or cutting other services.
The Government has stipulated pensioners must continue to receive full council tax benefit.
But North Lincolnshire Council is planning to reduce the benefit to other claimants by 23 per cent and a consultation is now under way.
The issue was discussed at the latest meeting of the council's corporate scrutiny panel.
Mike Wedgewood, the council's director of policy and resources, said: "North Lincolnshire is proposing pensioners will be fully protected and all other claimants will receive 77 per cent."
Mr Wedgwood said the plans differed from those put
forward by neighbouring North East Lincolnshire Council.
It also plans to offer 100 per cent protection to people claiming disability benefit and families with children aged under five.
He said: "They are able to do that because there are fewer pensioners in North East Lincolnshire than in North Lincolnshire.
"If North Lincolnshire were to protect disabled people and those with children under five, the result would be other claimants would receive 67 per cent of their existing benefit."
Councillor David Robinson, chairman of the panel, said: "The volume of pensioners as a percentage of the overall claimant pot has an impact on what is available to others.
"That, spread over time, can change between areas and probably will."
There are currently 17,000 council tax benefit claimants in North Lincolnshire, half of whom are pensioners.
Mr Robinson said maintaining the current council tax benefit arrangements would mean increasing charges by 2.2 per cent.
The council is also proposing to set up a £200,000 emergency support fund for those who cannot meet their payments if the changes are introduced.
The consultation month has had more than 100 responses from residents.
Jo Robinson, local taxation and benefits shared services manager with the council, said: "The survey is not just aimed at people who receive benefits now. It is aimed at all council tax payers because it is about whether the council should fund this change through reducing benefits or fund it through an increase in council tax."
The consultation runs until October 19 and is available at www.northlincs.gov.uk
A decision on whether to adopt the proposed scheme will be made in November.
Would you support a council tax rise to help needy people receive aid? E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org