Dec 20 2012 by Ian Proctor, Harrow Observer
BENEFIT claimants – many of whose council tax bills are met entirely by the taxpayer – may have to start contributing towards the bill.
The change is one of several poised to be introduced in Harrow on April 1 next year, as central government devolves the council tax benefit budget to local councils to administer, forcing them to devise their own schemes of payments, exemptions and discounts.
In Harrow, this means reducing council tax benefit spending by £3.8million for 2013/14 and £5.1million for 2014/15.
Harrow Association of Disabled People told the council in a statement as part of a consultation on the changes: “Disabled people need to be protected from losing council tax benefit.
“Disabled people will be disproportionately affected by having to pay more council tax because, although the amount may not be huge, it is additional to other financial decisions currently being made, such as to work-related benefits like employment and support allowance, having to contribute to all care costs, loss of concessionary travel and potential loss of disability living allowance.”
Contributions would only come in for those 11,034 claimants of working age because the 6,404 pensioner claimants are exempted by the government.
Occupants with physical or mental disabilities and who meet specific criteria will have to pay at least 10 per cent of their council tax bill, while everyone else will be invoiced for at least 22.5 per cent.
The second adult rebate would be scrapped and neither capital, disability living allowance, child benefit or child maintenance would be taken into account when assessing income.
Labour-run Harrow Council’s cabinet meeting approved the scheme on Thursday last week, with a recommendation the full council adopt it at its meeting in January.
Portfolio holder for finance, councillor Sachin Shah (Labour), said: “We have worked hard to get feedback from our residents and local partners and I would like to thank everybody for their huge efforts to help us shape our scheme.
“Those views are extremely important to us and it is key that we all work together to do the best we can for Harrow’s residents.
“Our preferred scheme has been designed with their feedback in mind, to ensure the borough’s most financially vulnerable residents are protected as much as possible against these changes.”