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Warning over benefit shake-up consultation
A MOVE to seek opinions on a controversial shake-up of Council tax benefit should be opened up to take account of changes to local government funding, it has been claimed.
Council tax benefit is to be abolished as part of the government’s welfare reforms and local councils will be ordered to devise their own schemes to help poorer residents pay their bills.
Local authorities will also be given 10 per cent less funding than the current national system.
Dorset councils have launched a consultation on the plans for local schemes – the consultation runs until November 5.
Only people who are receiving council tax benefit are being contacted about the changes and asked to fill in a questionnaire.
Weymouth and Portland councillor Mike Byatt believes everyone should be asked for their views because they will be affected in the long-run.
He says this change is one example of how the money received by councils is changing and being reduced by the government.
Coun Byatt, the borough council’s representative on the Local Government Association, says these changes will undoubtedly affect council services so communities need to be aware.
“We have to look at the bigger picture,” Coun Byatt maintained.
He added: “The consultation is going to council tax benefit claimants but it should go to everybody. People need to be alerted to this change but also to other significant changes which are taking place, which will affect local government funding and impact on local services.
“Consulting only those who are in receipt of council tax benefit is missing the point. Everyone has a right to know.”
A spokesman for the project said although councils were writing to people of working age in receipt of council tax benefit informing them of the changes, every resident was allowed to comment online.
Councils in Dorset have been working together on schemes that will take over when council tax benefit is scrapped.
Pensioners and the vulnerable will not be affected, but it is proposed that people of working age who qualify for benefit pay a contribution to their council tax.
Dave Barnes, project leader of the pan-Dorset group said: “The government has given us a real challenge by transferring responsibility to local councils to deliver a suitable scheme while reducing funding by 10 per cent. This is a complicated issue and we have had to take some difficult decisions.”
Local council tax support schemes will come into effect next April. To respond to the consultation visit dorsetforyou.com.