Warning over ‘costly’changes

RESIDENTS have just over two weeks to let Calderdale Council know what they think about major changes to council tax benefits.

The proposals will affect thousands of households in Calderdale and could lead to people who have not had to pay council tax before having to fork out.

But Brighouse councillor Colin Stout (inset right) fears that many people living in Calderdale do not know about the proposals and will neglect to let the council know their views.

“Unfortunately, the way things are now, if people do not take the trouble to register their opposition, the council will take that as approval for the policy,” said Coun Stout.

“But I feel that people are not filling in the questionnaires on this issue because there just hasn’t been enough information about it. Potentially thousands of people could be affected and the financial implications could be severe for a lot of households.”

The Government has announced that from April 2013, council tax benefit will be replaced by a new scheme, Council Tax Support, which will run locally by individual councils.

Pensioners will be protected and should see no change in their entitlement but other groups, including the unemployed and some disabled people, could become eligible to make some contribution towards council tax.

Coun Stout said: “The Government has given councils the responsibility to create their own scheme - which, of course, means that councils will get all the criticism when people who have not had to pay before suddenly get council tax bills.”

Questionnaires are now available online or from libraries and Customer First offices in Calderdale.

The closing date for consultation is October 5 and the final scheme will go before full Council in November.

“My main concern is that people are not aware that this consultation is currently going on and don’t realise how important it is that they let their views be known.

“If the new scheme goes ahead, people will no longer be able to assume that they will be able to get help with council tax. For some households the change is going to prove very costly indeed,” said Coun Stout.