Changes to the way council tax benefit is managed could have an adverse impact on children within low income families, according to information in a Richmond Council report.
As councils across the country discuss how to deal with Government proposals that local authorities take on the responsibility of council tax benefit, deputy leader of Richmond Council, Geoffrey Samuel said: “Devising a new council tax support system is not something we asked for or wanted.”
In addition to taking on responsibility of administering council tax benefit, the council will also be expected to find funding from its budget to manage the Government’s decision to cut the funding provided, which currently comes from the Department for Work and Pensions.
The Government is proposing a 10 per cent cut in the current funding and said pensioners should not be disadvantaged by the change.
Coun Samuel has said because of this, the cut would have to be distributed over the remaining 56 per cent of non-pensioner claimants in the borough – bringing the realistic cut the council would have to account for closer to 18 per cent.
According to information, presented in the finance and performance overview and scrutiny committee agenda, there could be a high impact on families with children, children living in out of work families, and under 25s with no children or partner.
The agenda read: “Changes to the current arrangements could have an adverse impact on children within low income families.”
At the finance and performance overview and scrutiny committee meeting on Tuesday, June 12, councillors discussed the complexity of the issue and said they would consult this summer.
However, Coun Samuel said because the council was taking care to ensure it knew who the borough’s most vulnerable were, they could end up better off.
He said: “You could arguably say they could be the people who will be looked after the best. I can assure you that we will check before the council agrees any scheme that the most vulnerable will not be affected.
“The bill will not reach the statute book until the autumn so there is plenty of time for the Government to amend the scheme.
“However, in the meantime we face the challenge to devise a new scheme. If we simply pass on all the cuts, it will make a huge difference to many benefit-recipients who may also be experiencing a reduction in their housing benefit. But, if we maintain the present system we shall have to find an additional £1m – which will obviously have an impact on both services and the level of council tax.”