Cornwall benefit plans to be re-drawn after no agreement

New proposals to plug a £6.4m funding gap in Cornwall must be drawn up after councillors failed to agree a solution.

Cornwall Council must decide how it operates council tax benefit from April, when the government cuts its funding by £6.4m.

Councillors were given the options of doing nothing, limiting claims to 70% for those of working age or scrapping backdating of payments.

The cabinet will meet on 21 January to discuss alternative options.

'Difficult' employment

A decision must be made by 31 January, otherwise the government will continue to operate the scheme but the council would have to find the money.

Councillors met at County Hall in Truro and voted 43 to 37 against the cabinets recommendation to limit claims to 75% for those of working age.

The three options were:

  • Option 1 - Do nothing forcing the Government to impose a default scheme which is essentially a continuation of the existing scheme.
  • Option 2 - Limitation of claims to 70% as opposed to 100%, making a saving of £5.935m or £274 per case.
  • Option 3 - A range of "tidying up" measures including removing back-dating of claims and reducing help for those with £6,000 savings, rather than the current £16,000.

About 54,000 people are registered for council tax benefit in Cornwall, although more than half are pensioners who are protected from the changes, leaving 26,000 who would be affected.

A report, prepared ahead of the meeting, noted that changes would "incentivise individuals into work" but in Cornwall employment opportunities were "difficult".

The report also raised concerns that there would be a negative impact for voluntary organisations which might see an increase in the number of people going to them for financial support and advice.

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