Protecting the Peak’s poorest

THE poorest and most vulnerable residents in the High Peak are to be protected from major changes in council tax benefit.

From April, High Peak Borough Council has to establish its own Local Council Tax Support scheme to replace the current national council tax benefit system. The authority will now only receive 90 per cent of the current level of subsidy - leaving a ten per cent shortfall.

The changes meant that 4,400 people across the borough who are in receipt of such support - except for pensioners who are exempt from the scheme - could have been left to pick up the pieces. But members of High Peak Borough Council have agreed a plan that would protect them from having to pay more.

The changes will however, impact on people who own a second home or those with unoccupied or unfurnished properties undergoing repairs.

Cllr Caitlin Bisknell said: “Officers have worked hard to make sure they’ve brought forward a very balanced report which protects some of the most hard-working yet vulnerable residents of the borough. No-one will end up receiving less than they do now.”

Cllr Ellie Wilcox added: “I’d like to urge councillors to give their full support to the Local Council Tax Support scheme because this will help our most vulnerable constituents and keep their heads above water for just that little bit longer.

“In the last 20 months since I’ve been a councillor, the casework has gone from people bringing up important environmental improvements and has now become really quite desperate social issues. Local people are finding themselves financially destitute through no fault of their own. Most people are dealing with a low income having lost their jobs and are struggling to buy food for their families.”

Councillors agreed:

• The removal of the ten per cent second homes discount. All second homes will now be liable for the full council tax charge.

• A 50 per cent discount on properties undergoing or requiring major structural repairs or alteration for up to 12 months.

• A 100 per cent discount for a maximum of three months on empty or unfurnished properties after which the full charge will apply.

• An additional 50 per cent premium on properties that have been empty for two years or more.