Rother District Council tax support could be reduced

Two NatWest branches will close in November
Two NatWest branches will close in November

Residents on low incomes in Rother may have to foot some of their council tax bill from next year.

Rother District Council is asking people in the area to have their say on proposed changes to a scheme which helps people on low incomes with their council tax.

It has launched a public consultation on the plans, which would come into force in April next year and could affect more than 3,000 working age households across the district.

The authority said the proposed changes would help Rother, and other authorities funded by council tax, to cope with cuts in central Government funding, with the district council facing a £2 million shortfall for the three years to 2019-20.

At present, people on low incomes are entitled to up to 100 per cent reduction in their council tax bill under the Council Tax Reduction Scheme, which costs around £7.5 million a year.

One of the options being considered is setting a minimum amount of 10, 15 or 20 per cent of the total council tax bill, which all working age households would have to pay.

The authority said this proposal would affect around 3,500 claimants and reduce the cost of the scheme by up to £784,200, 10 per cent of which would be saved by the district council, with the remaining savings being passed on to the county council, fire service and police.

People of retirement age would not be affected and an exceptional hardship fund would be set up to provide additional help to the most vulnerable households.

A second proposal, which would see an assumed minimum income level set for self-employed claimants, would affect around 400 people and save £355,500. Help would be available to people whose business was in its first year, the council said.

Cllr Lord Ampthill, district council cabinet member for finance, resources and value for money, said: “In the current climate of austerity, all local authorities are having to make difficult choices.

“Reducing the amount we pay in helping people with their council tax is one of many options we’re looking at to balance our budget next year, and other options could include increasing council tax or reducing funding to some of the services we provide.

“As most of the council tax we collect goes to other authorities, we’d also be helping the county council, police and fire service to meet the significant savings they are also facing.

“It’s vital we take people’s views into account, so I’d strongly urge people to take part in this consultation, to ensure their voice can be heard before any final decision is made.”

Residents can find out more and take part in the consultation, which runs until Friday, September 18, via the consultations section of the council website at Rother District Council

People can also have their say by emailing or writing to: Council Tax Reduction Scheme Consultation, Chris Watchman, Revenues and Benefits Manager, Rother District Council, Town Hall, Bexhill on Sea, TN39 3JX.

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