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We are currently updating our payment system. You may notice some changes in the forms that you use to pay for things like licences and your council tax. If you have any questions, please contact our customer services team.

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Council Tax Benefit changes FAQ

Questions

What have other people asked about the changes to council tax benefit.

I am on Job Seekers Allowance/Income Support/Employment and Support Allowance and do not pay towards Council Tax? Will I have to pay towards my Council Tax?

Yes, if you are working age from 1 April 2013 Council Tax Benefit will end and the amount of Council Tax Support you receive will be reduced by 8.5%.

I work and pay towards my Council Tax but receive some benefit, how will I be affected?

The amount of Council Tax Support you receive will be reduced by 8.5%.

Will I need to put in a claim for Council Tax Support?

No, if you are currently claiming Council Tax Benefit your claim will be changed over to Council Tax Support from 1 April 2013.

Why can't you just pass on a 10 per cent discount if that is what the government is reducing the funding by?

The government has said that pensioners must not be affected by the changes it is making to council tax benefit. A significant proportion of the people claiming council tax benefit in the borough are pensioners.

As stated in the consultation, putting up council tax, cutting other services and asking people who do not claim council tax benefit to contribute to the shortfall were all discounted as options by the council.

So although the new local system will reduce the council tax support that those people of working-age receive by 15 per cent (note that this is only 8.5% with additional funding received for the first, transitional year), this could have been as much as 25 per cent were it not for the additional changes made by the council to second homes and empty properties.

We think the scheme is hitting poor people the hardest. Why is it being put forward?

From 1 April 2013, central government is abolishing the national council tax benefits system. All local councils, including Swale Borough Council, are required to introduce a local council tax support scheme to replace it. This will be called council tax support and instead of receiving a payment towards council tax the amount of council tax charged will be reduced.

The government is reducing funding for council tax support by approximately 10 per cent for Swale Borough Council which means a shortfall in budget. Not everyone will receive the same level of support as they do now and it is up to local councils to decide how this shortfall in funding is going to be met.

You are reducing the exemption period on empty properties from six months to three months. Do we have to pay if a property is empty for a short-term period because of bereavement or a family member going into a care home?

No, there is an exemption for these specific occurrences and so you would not pay more. You would just need to let us know in the normal way that the property is empty for this reason and this will be taken into account.

I own a second home and do not put a strain on the council's resources or services. Why penalise me?

We understand the concerns that have been raised by second-home owners. However, council tax is a levy on the property or properties owned by an individual rather than a reflection of the services that are used by those individuals. Given the criteria set by government we felt this was a fair and reasonable amendment to make.

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