West Norfolk Council bosses to discuss council tax reforms

Views of King's Lynn

The view of Chapel Street with the Junction of Austin Street King's Lynn

The King's Lynn and West Norfolk Borough Council Office is the building on the left, with the Lattice House Pub further down on the right. ENGANL00120130322090456

Views of King's Lynn The view of Chapel Street with the Junction of Austin Street King's Lynn The King's Lynn and West Norfolk Borough Council Office is the building on the left, with the Lattice House Pub further down on the right. ENGANL00120130322090456

Borough council officials have admitted some families are likely to lose out because of the measures, which they say are meant to bring the system into line with government welfare reforms.

But they hope a new move to distribute copies of the plans to ward councillors and parish clerks will encourage more people to have their say than in previous years.

Like other local authorities, the council is required to carry out an annual consultation exercise on its system of providing council tax support for low income residents.

At present, the relief is capped at 75 per cent and the upper limit is set to remain in place.

But, under the new measures, which were supported by the council’s ruling cabinet at a meeting on Wednesday, payments will be restricted to a maximum of two children for new claimants and where further children have been born.

Lorraine Gore, the authority’s chief financial officer, said: “We’ve tried to bring changes in line with welfare reforms. It can be confusing for claimants.”

But some child benefit claimants may receive extra support, as their benefit payments will no longer be taken into account. It had previously been classed as an earning.

The report estimates that around 2,800 claims would be affected by changes to the support system, with the largest number covered by a freeze in the figure that a family is deemed to require to live on, known as an applicable amount, and additional sums, called premiums, for dependants.

The consultation is expected to start on Monday and will last for six weeks.

Meanwhile, the authority has also urged residents to seek help early if they find they are getting into difficulty with their council tax bills.

Officials say three people from the borough have been jailed this year for not paying and warn the courts are taking a harder line on the issue.

Jo Stanton, the council’s benefits and revenues manager, said yesterday: “Where people are unwilling to pay, or don’t talk to us about making a payment plan, we have no choice but to begin committal proceedings.

“Taking legal action is a last resort, but it is action we have to take to prevent the burden of unpaid council tax falling to other taxpayers.”