Council tax benefit could be axed

    Tonbridge

    A second consultation has been launched by Tonbridge & Malling Borough Council over changes to council tax which could hit residents who currently benefit from payment exemptions.

    With the local authority facing a £1.8million shortfall in government funding over four years, it is asking residents to consider ways of tightening its budgets as it is placed under unprecedented financial strain.

    One of the solutions in the borough’s new three-month consultation relates to its council tax reduction scheme (CTRS), which allowed working age people to apply for up to 100 per cent council tax benefit.

    This will now be reviewed by the borough following cuts to its Government funding that took effect from 2013. As a result, it is expected that all local authorities will be largely self-financing within the next four years as they will be given the power to retain local business rates – which are presently returned directly to the government.

    The borough’s latest consultation follows swiftly on from an initial consultation which could, if approved, mean council tax rises of £42 per household a year for residents in Tonbridge. It comes as the authority seeks to rebalance payment levels more evenly across the borough, with the deadline of June 20 for receiving feedback on this approaching fast.

    Under the second consultation, a questionnaire sets out 14 possible options for changes to the CTRS tax scheme from April 2017. The council confirmed that any changes made will only affect working-age people.

    Councillor Martin Coffin, Tonbridge & Malling Borough Council’s Cabinet Member for Finance and Innovation, said: “This is an extremely difficult issue because we must try to balance the need to support and protect people on low incomes against the challenging financial situation the council is facing.

    “The council must save £1.8million over the next four years, which means we must look closely at all areas of spending. It may be possible to achieve some of the savings we need by introducing a combination of just some of the options for the CTRS [rather than all of them] and we really want to know what our residents think. All the feedback we receive will be considered when it comes to making a decision later this year.”

    The council has written to all those who are affected by the review. More information about the options, including a video, can be seen at www.tmbc.gov.uk/cts