What the benefit shake-up means

Council tax discounts for second homes and empty properties are set to be abolished in a bid to protect vulnerable residents from higher bills.

From next April, the Government will devolve the allocation of the national council tax benefit scheme to local authorities, but will cut the total amount of support given to councils by between 10 and 14 per cent.

On Thursday, Northumberland County Council’s executive outlined the shake-up,but said the planned cut in the total council tax benefit paid out will not affect those most in need of assistance.

Under the Lib Dem plan, the existing council tax discounts for those with empty or second homes will be abolished, which will ensure those claiming out-of-work benefits and disability-related benefits like Employment Support Allowance and Disability Living Allowance can continue to be supported.

Executive member for corporate services, Coun Andrew Tebbutt, said: “The best way to protect those on benefits is to abolish all discretionary allowances on empty and second homes. Under these proposals, no current council tax benefit claimant on out-of-work benefits will lose out for at least the first year. The Association of North East Councils will host meetings at all three party conferences to press on a number of issues, including the council tax arrangements.”

The county council offers a 10 per cent council tax discount to properties that are defined as second homes.

But the Government will be amending legislation to enable full council tax to be charged from April 1 next year

Following the meeting, executive member Coun Neil Bradbury said: “I am proud to be a part of an administration which is protecting the vulnerable as a priority.

“It wouldn’t be right if someone with an empty home that a family could be living in continued to get a discount on their council tax while a disabled person already struggling to make ends meet was hit with a bill for hundreds of pounds.”