24 Sep 2012 Last updated at 00:00

Council tax consultation begins

A consultation has been launched on proposals to introduce fundamental and far-reaching changes to council tax support.

New arrangements are coming into place next year as the government is ending the national council tax benefit scheme and asking local authorities to introduce their own schemes. At the same time, the government is reducing the amount it makes available to finance council tax benefit leaving local councils to decide how the shortfall - £1.9 million in the Island’s case - will be met.  
The Isle of Wight Council has considered several options, of which one is currently preferred by the council. Under this preferred option, thousands of people who have previously had little or no council tax to pay – predominantly those able to work but not in employment - would be asked to make a contribution for the first time. The discounts currently offered to second home owners would be removed under the proposals and there may be changes to discounts and exemptions for empty properties. The single person discount would not however be affected by these proposals.
Pensioners will not be affected by the changes

Pensioners (people who have reached the qualifying age for state pension credit) will not be affected by the changes and the council’s preferred option protects some other groups such as those in receipt of specific disability benefits so their current council tax support would remain the same. Also unaffected will be those claiming war widows and war disabled pensions.
The consultation launched today (Monday) will run until 30 November. The new scheme will be in operation from 1 April next year.
Isle of Wight Council leader Councillor David Pugh, said: “This is a major change to the way council tax support is provided and the new scheme will mean a great many people who have traditionally not paid any council tax will be asked to contribute for the first time.
“But our guiding principle in this is that those people, of working age, who are able to work should make a contribution towards the cost of the services they use. We believe those currently paying the full amount should not be asked to pay still more in order to make up the shortfall and nor do we believe that we should be reducing services in order to raise the necessary money.
“The key is to ensure that the amount we ask people to contribute is reasonable and affordable. And what we must ensure is that those who are unable to work for good reasons are not penalised.
'Fair to all residents'

“The consultation will be about hearing the views of all those who could be affected so our scheme is equitable and fair to all residents.”
As part of the consultation, all residents currently in receipt of benefits who are of working age will be sent a letter to explain how they might be affected by the changes and to encourage them to participate in the consultation. The consultation is open to all residents and can be seen online at  http://www.iwight.com/council/consultation/activeco.asp or by picking up a copy from Island libraries, help centres and children’s centres. Residents can also request a copy by calling 823653 or by writing to the Isle of Wight Council offices at the Broadway, Sandown PO36 9EA.
The views gained from the consultation will help Full Council make a decision on what scheme to adopt at its meeting on January 16.

The government is ending the national council tax benefit scheme
The government is ending the national council tax benefit scheme
  • People of a pensionable age will not be affected by the proposed changes.
  • On the Island, around 15,000 people currently claim council tax benefit - meaning they pay greatly reduced or zero council tax.
Isle of Wight