Friday, 1 February 2013

Councillors Act to Support Vulnerable and Bring Homes Back Into Use

West Lindsey District Councillors this week approved a local Ccouncil Tax support scheme that will protect vulnerable residents while encouraging owners of empty properties to bring them back into use.

Changes in Government policy announced as part of the austerity measures mean that in order to avoid a funding gap in council tax benefit of more than £1 million (split between West Lindsey District & Lincolnshire County councils and the Lincolnshire Police Authority). West Lindsey District Council has had to look closely at how much financial support can be made available to people who were previously in receipt of council tax benefit.

Following an eight-week public consultation, West Lindsey District Councillors approved a proposal at a full meeting of the Council on Monday, 28th January for a Local Council Tax Support Scheme designed to protect the most vulnerable people throughout the district while also being fair to all taxpayers.

Leader of the Council, Cllr. Burt Keimach, Conservative (Market Rasen Ward) said:
“In order to protect the most vulnerable residents of our district the decision was taken to change some of the reductions currently available to those who own empty properties and to charge an additional amount of council tax on properties that have been empty for more than two years.
“There are currently more than 1,500 empty properties in West Lindsey, and more than a quarter of these will have been unoccupied for two years by April 1, 2013.
“We need to encourage owners of empty property to put these back into use to help provide much-needed housing and minimise homelessness.
“The new scheme must, by law, provide protection for pensioners but by changing the empty homes reductions we are also able to protect those who receive a war pension, a disability premium and those who receive a carers premium.”
Under the scheme everyone of working age, unless they are in a vulnerable group, will be expected to contribute towards the council tax by paying 8.5 per cent of their council tax liability.

Second adult rebate will no longer exist for working age customers, all non-dependent deductions (where other adults live in the property who are not dependant on the claimant) will increase slightly and in order to receive the council tax support weekly entitlement must be £2.50 or greater.

The changes affecting empty properties will be:
  • Any unfurnished property undergoing structural repair will receive a 25 per cent discount from the council tax for up to 12 months.
  • Any unoccupied and unfurnished property will receive a discount of 100 per cent for two months followed by a full charge.
  • Any property that has been unoccupied and unfurnished for two years or more will be liable for a premium of 50 per cent of the council tax, meaning the owner will pay 150 per cent. This latter change is to encourage owners of empty property to put them back into use quickly thereby increasing housing supply and minimising homelessness.
There are currently 1,583 empty properties in West Lindsey, including 444 properties that will have been unoccupied for two years by April 1, 2013, when the changes to council tax benefit will come into effect. Cllr. Keimach added:
“The council has been forced to make tough decisions regarding council tax support but we believe we have reached the best solution given the circumstances. We are committed to protecting our vulnerable residents, and we will hopefully see more empty properties brought back into use for our communities.”

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