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Full Council agrees new scheme for council tax rebates for low income residents

At the Full Council meeting of 29 January, Cornwall Councillors reluctantly approved a recommendation that all working age recipients of council tax benefit should pay an additional 25% contribution towards their council tax.

Members at today’s extraordinary meeting of the full Council also agreed to set up a £1m safety net to provide support for people in the greatest need and to give an additional £150,000 to the CAB to enable them to provide information and advice to people affected by the new scheme.

The Government announced last year that local authorities would be required to create their own localised council tax support schemes as part of the changes to the national benefits system.  At the same time councils were told that the funding for the scheme was being cut by 12.5%.  This means that Cornwall faces a shortfall of £4.2 million at a time of reducing budgets if it does not make changes to the existing scheme.

The Cabinet originally endorsed the recommendation to reduce the maximum level of council tax support available to working age people from 100% to 75% in December and then reconfirmed its decision at last week’s extraordinary meeting.

Some Members proposed maintaining the current level of council tax support by reducing the amount the authority spends on employing consultants, interim and agency staff.  However the meeting heard that much of this funding was used to employ temporary staff to cover sickness and maternity leave and deal with short term pressures in frontline services such as adult care and support, children’s services, libraries and one stop shops, and revenues and benefits.  The Council also used temporary staff to provide specialist advice and support for one off projects as this was cheaper than employing such staff on a full time basis.

The amendment to approve Option A to maintain the current level of support by reducing the consultancy, interim and agency spend across all Directorates by £4.2 m was defeated by 61 votes to 41, with Members finally approving the recommendation put forward by the Cabinet.

The papers that explained the options can be found in the agenda for the Full Council meeting on the website at Extraordinary Council Meeting. The press release announcing the decision can be found at Council approves reformed scheme.


January 2013

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