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Thursday, 31 July 2014

Extra council tax will help the poorest

By Richard MachinSECOND homeowners in South Lakeland are to lose their council tax discount from next April.

South Lakeland District Council will use the extra money to bolster council tax benefits for its poorest residents.

The news, revealed at Wednesday’s cabinet meeting, follows a government announcement to scrap council tax benefits from 2013.

From then, SLDC will receive a Whitehall grant of 90 per cent of the total claimed in the area to cover those in need of council tax benefit.

But the district authority will increase second homes council tax from 90 per cent to 100 per cent to bridge the funding gap.

Cllr David Evans, SLDC’s policy and performance boss, said 6,000 people across South Lakeland claim council tax benefit.

He said: “We are trying to protect vulnerable householders. Council tax benefit has been around for 20 years and has been funded centrally.

“This is to be scrapped, at short notice, so we have come up with a local scheme to make sure people are not affected.”

Council tax benefit is awarded to those on low incomes.

The government claims the new scheme, which will be called Council Tax Reduction, will help save an estimated £500m a year and encourage people back into work.

Speaking at SLDC’s cabinet meeting, Councillor Peter Thornton, SLDC leader, said many older people had been at risk of dropping below the poverty line as a result of the change.

“Even in a modest house, the burden of council tax on a pensioner is substantial,” he said.

“But under this new scheme anyone who gets a discount will continue to get the same help.”

Cllr Thornton added: “In South Lakeland we have second homes – the additional council tax we can charge will give us the opportunity to cover the shortfall in council tax benefit from the government.”

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