Council Confirms Tax Break For Low Income Families

Town hall to cushion impact of nationwide changes to benefit rules

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The council has finalised its response to a Goverment shake-up of the council tax benefit system and town hall finance chiefs have confirmed that low income families in Wandsworth are to be protected from higher council tax bills caused by nationwide changes to benefit rules.

A spokesman fro the council said:
"The decision effectively means that low income households in Wandsworth will be spared a potential £580,000 tax hike from April onwards."

The changes are happening nationally after the Government announced a ten per cent reduction in the funding it gives town halls to pay for council tax benefit. The picture in Wandsworth is in stark contrast with many other parts of the country where poorer families will be required to pay higher bills from April. Wandsworth is one of only a small number of councils that is maintaining the existing rules and protecting benefit entitlement at current levels.

Instead of forcing the poor to pay, the council will pick up the £580,000 cost of maintaining the current system. A recent council report stated:
“In an environment of welfare reform where households have already seen the level of housing benefit reduce and with further welfare reforms proposed, it is difficult to envisage householders seeing council tax as a priority debt above rent and other household essentials.”

The report concluded: “In maintaining a version of the current scheme into the next year the council will provide an element of stability for these low income households.”

Finance spokesman Cllr Guy Senior said:
“In many other parts of the country, people on low incomes will soon find themselves having to pay council tax for the first time. While the sums involved may be modest, to many households this will be an added burden they will struggle to afford.

“Here in Wandsworth, we want to do what we can to protect the low income families who are already struggling to pay their bills. With our long record as a low tax authority we do not wish to start increasing the tax burden for those least able to afford it.”

Council tax bills in Wandsworth are the lowest in the country. The borough’s Band D bill this financial year is £682, compared to a London average of more than £1,300.

January 18, 2013