Time running out to have your say on benefits changes


Time running out to have your say on benefits changes

Working age families and people on low incomes are being urged not to miss out on a chance to have their say on proposed benefits changes which could affect them.

The Rother District Council proposals would simplify the process of applying for a reduction in Council Tax and allow people to do a few extra hours' overtime without affecting the amount they receive.

The changes would automatically reduce Council Tax for people who get Universal Credit and could in particular benefit single people, couples with no children, disabled people, carers and students.

However, families with three or more children may have to pay more, bringing the scheme into line with the Government's new Universal Credit scheme - which is replacing individual benefits such as Housing Benefit and Income Support.

People can have their say by taking part in the consultation the council is running, which ends at 9am on Monday, September 24.

Cllr Lord Ampthill, cabinet member for finance, said: "These changes are aimed at bringing our Council Tax Reduction Scheme in line with changes to national benefits and making it simpler and cheaper to run.

"There will be winners and losers, and it's vital that people let us know how they may be affected so we can fully understand the impact of the changes before we make a decision.

"It's important to stress that the changes will only affect people of working age who currently receive a reduction in their Council Tax - pensioners will not be affected.

"I would strongly urge anyone who might be impacted by these proposals to take five minutes to take part in the consultation before the September 24 deadline, to make sure their voice is heard."

People can have their say online at www.rother.gov.uk/CTRS18 or pick up a questionnaire from Community Help Points at Bexhill Town Hall, Market Place in Battle or Rye Library. 

Responses can then be emailed to consultation@rother.gov.uk or sent to CTRS Consultation, Programme Office & Policy, Town Hall, Bexhill TN39 3JX

A final report, along with feedback from the consultation, will be considered by the council's Overview and Scrutiny Committee on October 15 and at Cabinet on November 5 before full council makes a final decision on December 17.


The 10 proposed changes to the Council Tax Reduction Scheme:

1 -  To introduce income bands
This means we won't have to constantly change people's entitlement to Council Tax reduction. For example, people will be able to do a few hours' overtime without worrying about telling us about changes to their claim.

2 -  No additional discount for families with more than two children
This change, which will bring Council Tax Reduction in line with other benefits including the new Universal Credit scheme, means families with three or more children may have to pay more of their Council Tax bill

3 - We will not take into account other adults living in households that are not partners
We will no longer assume that adult children, for example, will contribute towards the household's Council Tax bill. This means some people may get more of a reduction in their Council Tax.

4 - Changing the claiming process for all residents who get Universal Credit
We will automatically give people on Universal Credit a reduction in their Council Tax, meaning people no longer have the hassle of having to make a separate claim to the council for this benefit.

5 - To not count the first £25 of earnings a week for residents or their partners working over 16 hours a week
This will replace a more complicated system and will mean single people and couples with no children in particular will be able to earn more without it affecting their Council Tax reduction. However, larger families may receive less reduction than at present and may have to apply to the Exceptional Hardship Scheme if they need more support.

6 -  To not include Carer's Allowance as income when working out the Council Tax discount
We believe this is fairer to people who are carers, who may receive a bigger reduction than at present

7 - To allow students who pay Council Tax to apply for a Council Tax discount
This will make the process less complicated and mean more of the small number of students who have to pay Council Tax will be able to get a reduction

8 - To stop the extension to Council Tax reduction for people who have just come off benefits and into work
This will bring this benefit in line with national benefits such as Universal Credit and mean all benefit claimants will be treated equally. However, it means people who come off benefits and start work will have their Council Tax reduction stopped straightaway

9 -  To work out changes in Council Tax reduction from the date your circumstances change
This will replace the current system which, for historic reasons, is calculated weekly, will make the reduction scheme match how Council Tax is charged and make the system simpler and easier to run

10 -  To disregard some income to protect disabled residents, partners or children that would lose some discount under the income band proposal
Will replace the current system of 'premiums' awarded to people in this category with a new system where income to the same value is disregarded to ensure that disabled people or people with a disabled partner or child are not negatively affected by the changes

Link to consultation: www.rother.gov.uk/CTRS18

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