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Three Rivers consults residents over Council Tax changes
Changes to Council Tax benefits could see bigger bills for people who own empty or second homes in Three Rivers, and a benefit cut to anyone with savings of £8,000 or more.
From April, the old Council Tax benefit scheme, which is paid to low-income residents to help towards the cost of Council Tax, will be replaced by Council Tax Support.
The Government is giving councils less money to pay for this new scheme, and as a result, Three Rivers District Council has to save at least £600,000.
Many options are currently being considered by the council, as a way of making up the shortfall in Government funding.
Councillor Matthew Bedford, cabinet member for resources, said: "The changes may mean some people who currently don’t pay any Council Tax will, from April 2013, have to pay at least part of the cost.
"The options available to the council are very limited if we are to maintain all our current services".
Options being considered include increasing Council Tax, decreasing services, reducing the number of people who currently do not have to pay Council Tax and reducing the Council Tax benefits of specific groups.
The Government has guaranteed that pensioners who claim Council Tax benefit will not be affected by these changes.
A consultation of Three Rivers residents started on Monday and will run until October 14, and is available on the council's website or by telephone.
The survey asks participants to rate a number of different money saving ideas, including charging full Council Tax for empty homes, and an extra 50 per cent for homes left empty for more than two years.
Another option is to charge second home owners full Council Tax rather than the 90 per cent they are currently billed.
Those currently claiming Council Tax benefit and living with someone other than their partner, such as a grown up son or daughter, could see the amount they receive cut.
Anyone with savings of more than £8,000 could also no longer be eligible to claim the benefit. The level is currently £16,000.