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Council Tax Benefit replacement scheme

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With all the current media comments and articles about “work-shy” claimants losing Housing Benefits etc., the April 2013 picture in reality is very different. The reductions in Housing Benefit are huge of course but potentially it is the Council Tax Benefit restrictions that will really impact (albeit differently across Local Authority boundaries). Why, after all these years, so many still do not realise that HB/CTB are in-work benefits?The biggest overall losers in percentage numbers are almost certain to be:a) those on low wagesb) those aged between 50 and pensionable age.c) owner occupier war widows /ers aged below pensionable age.This is because the following key issues all interact.Firstly, the under-occupation rules still apply to those who are in work and the calculation will tend to take them out of housing benefit altogether.Secondly, those of 50 plus (especially women) will tend to be in larger property in social housing because their children have left home and / or their spouses are deceased. Protection on death only lasts a year; many social landlords admit they will not be able to move affected claimants for many years.Thirdly, the impact of the Council Tax reduction schemes (known as Council Tax Support to many) is inevitably going to hit the low paid, whatever the Government is suggesting. Local Authorities struggled to get money owed from those in benefits under the Community Charge (Poll tax). With some draft schemes requiring a minimum of £5 per week entitlement to qualify being mooted, the loss will fall squarely on the employed in many areas. If the Government was hoping to reduce work incentives then this is potentially the best way to do it!Finally, the loss of a national disregard for working age war pensioners seems to have been missed by many. DCLG suggest that local Authorities can use local discretion (but NOT DHP’s) to mitigate this but with funding being cut so much, many may choose not to use any discretion at all for this group.The Council Tax Support position is extraordinary. With no Act in place yet and a requirement to have a full scheme consulted on, voted on and in place by the end of January 2013, English local authorities are coming up with a mixture of schemes, often based on what their IT and computer systems can do rather than on any other local factor. It is a complete mess by any standards.The earliest the Bill can get Royal Assent is 22nd October and that is dependent on no further challenges (a number have been tabled in the House of Lords).The media has suggested that the Government is reviewing its strategy, even at this late stage and may provide extra money to mitigate some of the impact of the changes. If this is true, then postponing the scheme for 12 months and retaining Council Tax Benefit for a further year would surely make a lot of sense.

Edited by NoworNever
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