Send your news, photos and videos by texting bucksfreepress to 80360 or email
'Tough decision' on council tax postponed by Chiltern District Council
A COUNCIL will dip into its reserves budget to delay making an "incredibly difficult decision" over council tax benefits.
The old system of council tax benefits is being axed due to Government cuts and councils have to find a way to make up the shortfall.
It means the district councils in Bucks face a choice between increasing the overall council tax bill for all residents - or slashing the amount of benefits offered to certain claimants.
Chiltern District Council has already consulted over five options but Councillor Isobel Darby, cabinet member for health and housing, said "none of these proposed options provided a satisfactory long term solution".
She said the council will continue with the current benefits scheme for one year from April 2013, with the £45,000 funding shortfall met from council reserves.
She acknowledged this does not offer a long term solution, so a working group will be set up "with the aim of ensuring our most vulnerable residents are not overly penalised but at the same time making sure that other residents do not bear unreasonable costs of the local scheme".
The proposals from this group will be subject to further consultation and the final scheme will be in place for the year starting in April 2014, she added.
The Government has stipulated that claimants of state pension age should be protected from any cuts.
The five options considered by Chiltern were to; reduce the amount of support to all working age applicants by 20 per cent, as option 1 but with protection for vulnerable groups, to set a minimum level of support at £5 per week, set the maximum support based on the Band D council tax figure, or limit the amount of support at £23.08 per week.
South Bucks and Wycombe district councils have proposed reducing council tax benefits for all working age adults by 20 per cent, with some protections for the most vulnerable, but are still consulting with residents (see related links).