Where should cuts be made?

HIGH Peak residents are to be consulted on major changes planned for the council tax benefits system.

The Government is to replace council tax benefit with a new scheme of localised support from next April as part of welfare reforms to cut public spending and encourage claimants to find work.

Councils have to introduce a new form of discount for people who need help paying their council tax, but the authority will be expected to spend ten per cent less than they currently pay out in council tax benefit.

In the High Peak, a ten per cent saving would mean an overall reduction of around £699,000. The only way the council could reduce the impact would be to cut other services or increase its income, for example by removing the council tax discount on second homes.

High Peak borough councillor Tim Norton said: “We have no choice but to make these changes, and the only way in which we can reduce the impact is by increasing our income in other ways or by cutting back on vital services.

“And it’s important to stress that, apart from these reforms, public services are likely to come under further pressure following the next public spending review,” he added.

The changes are expected to affect 4,400 residents of working age who will have their council tax benefit reduced.

High Peak Borough Council is planning an extensive programme of public consultation, including drop-in sessions for claimants between 3pm and 7pm on Monday October 1 at Buxton Methodist Church, and on Wednesday October 10 at the Volunteer Centre, Union Road, New Mills.

The council has published a survey at www.highpeak.gov.uk/hp/counciltaxconsultation so the public can have its say on the reforms and ways in which the authority might absorb the impact.

The consultation ends at 5pm on Friday, November 9.