LETTERS From Cllr David Pugh, IW Council leader, Shanklin:
READERS will know we are consulting on proposed changes to the council tax benefits scheme.
By way of background, the government is scrapping the current national scheme, leaving local authorities to devise local replacements that would start on April 1, 2013.
Simultaneously, government is reducing the amount of money available to fund such schemes. On the Island, there is a £1.9 million shortfall.
With this large sum to find, these changes have the propensity to affect all residents, not just those who currently have council tax support but also council taxpayers and service users. Our current consultation seeks views on how this shortfall can most fairly be met.
Our preferred scheme protects the most vulnerable in society but seeks some contribution from those of working age who are able to work.
In the majority of cases, the average contribution from those who don’t currently pay council tax will be £3.61 a week — about the price of a pint of lager.
We believe it is perfectly reasonable to ask these people, who can work, to pay something towards the services they receive from the council, like other households currently do.
At the same time, I must stress pensioners will be unaffected by the changes. The scheme also proposes ending the current discount for second home owners.
The alternatives to raising the required money would impact upon all residents either by asking those who already pay the full amount to pay more or by reducing services. I don’t think either of these approaches would be particularly welcome.
Early evidence shows the overwhelming majority of local authorities are planning a similar approach to our scheme though some are seeking a far greater contribution from those on benefit.
There is no escaping the fact that these changes — which are not of the council’s making — represent a far-reaching and fundamental shift in the council tax benefits system.
I really would urge all residents to have their say. Details are available online on www.iwight.com while the consultation document is at Island libraries, help centres and children’s centres, on request from 01983 823653 or by writing to the council offices at The Broadway, Sandown, PO36 9EA.