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Have your say on changes to Council Tax Support

Local people have until Friday 31 October to give their views on proposed changes to Council Tax Support provided by the Borough of Poole from 2015/16.

Every household in Poole has to pay Council Tax, but some people can apply for Council Tax Support - a reduction to their bill which is means tested. The current Council Tax Support scheme was implemented in 2013 following a reduction in Government funding, with some working age residents only able to claim Council Tax Support on 91.5% of their total bill for 2014/15.

Funding for Council Tax Support has now been cut even further, meaning that the Council will find it difficult to continue to provide the same level of support without affecting funds needed for other essential services. Local residents are being invited to have their say on a proposed reduction in the level of support that is able to be provided in 2015/16, as well as other possible changes.

Some groups are however protected from these changes, and will continue to be so. The financial help for pensioners is a national scheme and will not change, and changes will not affect the 25% Single Person’s Discount, where there is only one adult in the household. The most vulnerable people, such as those receiving war pensions, disability or carers’ premiums will also be protected and continue to receive full support. In addition, as now, if a person is suffering exceptional financial difficulties, the Council may be able to provide assistance on a case by case basis.

Cllr Elaine Atkinson, Leader of the Council, Borough of Poole, said: "The Government ended Council Tax Benefit on 1 April 2013, and all councils, including Poole, developed their own Council Tax Support schemes to replace it. For the past two financial years we have been able to maintain a certain level of support by using Council reserves, but we are now faced with the difficult decision of putting forward changes that may reduce the amount of support available for some people.

"This is a consultation exercise and no decisions will be made until the process is complete and the results have been analysed. We recognise that the support we provide is important for many residents and any decision to reduce it will not be taken lightly. However this is now the time when, unfortunately, cuts and pressures we have been warning about for some time, are now hitting us. We have worked very hard to try and avoid services being affected, but this is no longer possible with the budget we are allocated in Poole."

The consultation starts on Wednesday 10 September 2014 and will close on Friday 31 October 2014.

The results of the consultation will be used to help shape Poole’s Council Tax Support Scheme for 2015/16. Any changes will not come into force until April 2015.

More information about the draft Council Tax Support Scheme can be found at www.boroughofpoole.com/counciltaxsupport. Residents are able to give their views at www.boroughofpoole.com/counciltaxsupportconsultation