The Government is abolishing the current Council Tax Benefit Scheme from next April and has asked each council to design a local scheme.
Manchester City Council says that, while the Government currently meets the whole cost of council tax support, in future it will pay the council only around 90 per cent of the expected cost, leaving the Council with a funding gap of at least £5 million, based on the 2011/12 figure, or almost £50 million paid to 71,000 claimants.
The Council has designed a proposed scheme which it believes will support as many people as possible, while still being affordable. It wants to hear from residents, especially those who will be affected, such as benefit claimants, before it finalises the design of the scheme.
People can visit www.manchester.gov.uk/consultations to complete an online questionnaire or pick up a paper copy. They have until Sunday 7 October to raise any points.
Proposals include capping the maximum award a household could receive at 85 per cent of the Council Tax charge – meaning every household will have to pay at least 15 per cent of the Council Tax charge. Previously support for the poorest claimants could cover up to 100 per cent of the bill.
Manchester City Council says the Government has said that pensioners should be protected from the changes but the proposals will have a substantial impact on working-age claimants. It is also proposed that Council Tax support should be capped so that, regardless of the value of their properties, people only receive support based on the charge for properties in the lowest Council Tax bands. Another proposal would see support no longer paid to claimants whose weekly award would have been less than £1.
Councillor Jeff Smith, Executive Member for Finance, said: “We have developed a set of proposals for a support scheme which we feel makes the best of a bad situation.
“It’s a balancing act and we need people, especially those who are directly affected by the suggested changes, to tell us whether we’ve got the balance right.
“While we’ve had a reasonable level of response so far, we want to make sure that the responses reflect the views of people across the city and we’re particularly keen to hear from more Wythenshawe residents.”
The Council intends to increase the Council Tax charged on empty properties and second properties to make up for some of the shortfall which will be caused by the Government paying less.