On council tax benefit, the Government intends to give local councils control of the council tax benefit system. Local authorities will be given control of money for council tax benefit and will be able to establish their own local system for discounts and support for those on low incomes. As part of the austerity measures, the total national sum available to support the benefit will be cut by 10%. The principle that local authorities should determine their own local schemes of council tax benefit according to local circumstances and local need and on a tax which they collect and set the value of, is one that Liberal Democrat MPs support. Clearly, in line with many of the challenges faced by local authorities in the current climate, it will be difficult to balance the books when the reduction in funds available is taken into account.
However, this is not yet law and there is time for local authorities and others to influence the Government to amend their proposals on council tax benefit if that is required. It is worth adding that many Labour-led councils have supported calls for the single person council tax discount of 25% to be scrapped - not something that I suspect many single pensioner and single parent households would welcome!