Council Tax shake-up may affect worse-off in Rotherham

Rotherham Town Hall, Moorgate
Rotherham Town Hall, Moorgate

Some of the poorest families across the borough look set to lose vital cash support as part of a council tax shake-up.

Rotherham Council has launched a consultation into the plans which could see families living on low incomes and currently receiving council tax benefits pay more each year.

The changes come in the wake of the radical shake-up of the Government’s funding system.

From next April, Rotherham Council, will take over the provision of tax benefits from the Government - which is to provide the council with a fixed grant of around 90 per cent of the amount currently paid. The council estimates that this could result in at least a £4.1million funding shortfall.

From Monday, residents will have eight weeks to comment on the new local council tax support scheme, together with other council tax changes. The responses will be considered by the council before any final scheme is agreed.

The changes include introducing a maximum level of council tax support for working age claiments, the abolition of the current second adult rebate and removing the current 50 per cent discount for second homes.

Other proposed changes are reducing the exemption for homes undergoing major structural repair and vacant and unfurnished properties in the first six months to a 25 per cent discount, removing the 50 per cent discount for vacant and unfurnished properties between six months and two years and making a full charge and charging an additional 50 per cent premium for vacant and unfurnished properties over two years.

At a council cabinet meeting on Wednesday, councillors heard that during 2011/12 the authority awarded £22.8million to 31,000 claiments.

Coun Jahangir Akhtar, deputy leader and cabinet member for resources, described the changes as ‘far-reaching’ and so urged the public to make their views known.

He said: “We are having to make these very big changes because by abolishing the current national council tax benefit scheme the Government is leaving Rotherham with a huge shortfall that we currently use to help those vulnerable and most in need across Rotherham.”

“Obviously the changes could affect a great many people - council tax payers and working age claimants - as well as the council itself. That is why we need to hear everyone’s views on our proposals.”

“The authority has until the end of January to adopt a local scheme - if we don’t, the Government’s default scheme will be imposed on the borough which will result in severe financial implications for the council.”

Information about the changes is available or a printed leaflet may be obtained from all Rotherham Council customer service centres.