Tax benefit claimants will soon be worse off

Local elections. May 2008.'Graham Stokes. Labour. Knottingley.'w3843c819
Local elections. May 2008.'Graham Stokes. Labour. Knottingley.'w3843c819

THOUSANDS of people who receive help with their council tax bills will soon be worse off.

Wakefield Council’s cabinet approved a new council tax benefit scheme this morning (Tuesday) that will be introduced in April next year.

It will replace the nationally-funded Council Tax Benefit scheme which is to be scrapped by the government.

The changes will result in a cut in the financial help available to low-income families, and will affect 19,300 working-aged people in Wakefield, whether they are working or not.

More than half of them will have to pay £5 more a week for their council tax, which is around £240 a year.

On top of this, almost 1,000 more households will be hit by the government’s cap on benefits, which will limit the amount a single family can claim in benefits to around £26,000 a year as well as rent restrictions for those living in social housing who have more bedrooms than they need - both of these changes will reduce housing benefit payments.

The cabinet report said the cuts would plunge families into debt and put children at risk. At the meeting, Coun Olivia Rowley said the government was “attacking families”.

She said: “We’ve tried as much as we can to mitigate the impact where there are children. Children are our future and if they’re not doing well at home then they have enough problems with educational attainment and future job prospects.”

Pensioners will not be affected by the changes, but people with other adults living in their homes will receive the greatest reduction in council tax support, of up to £19 a week less.

Coun Graham Stokes said there was £5m less available to help people pay council tax than before.

He said: “We set out to be fair to everybody and recognise individual circumstances, and we have considered the impact on families.”

The government said changes to the benefit system were designed to get people back to work. But the report said trends showed the number of people claiming council tax support in Wakefield will continue to rise despite government predictions.