AT present North Tyneside Council administers the process of people on council tax benefit but it is central government that pays the bill for the current £4.2bn paid in council tax benefit nationally.
From April 2013 this will change – although the 2.7 million pensioners will not be affected.
But the total funding for council tax benefit will fall by ten per cent.
That means that for non pensioners there will be a strong incentive for councils to encourage people off benefits and into work – also to help reduce fraud.
If councils just carry on as they are they will have to find extra money from elsewhere to make up the shortfall.
At present there is no financial risk in leaving fraud and welfare dependency to become endemic – the government pays.
Some councils are looking at the opportunity the greater flexibility will bring to improve their community.
They are consulting on whether future payments of council tax benefit should be tied to certain levels of behaviour or other conditions around a person’s individual circumstances.
Under ‘Civic Contracts’, some councils are looking at qualifying criteria that could mean, for example, that a persistent offender could see a reduction or termination in their benefit or that a payment could be made only to those actively seeking a job if out of employment but fit to work.
The government’s changes should reduce administration costs as councils will be able to make the process less bureaucratic.
The Royal British Legion has suggested that council tax benefit be renamed council tax rebate.
This would reflect the right attitude.
Maybe the following words should be posted up in every council office as they are based not on some economics theory, but on things I and millions like me were brought up with: ‘An honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay; live within your means; put by a nest egg for a rainy day; pay your bills on time and support the police’.
COUNCIL TAX PAYER