Harrogate Borough Council announce council tax changes.

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Vunerable benefit claimants will be protected when the latest council tax changes come into force on April 1, says Harrogate Borough Council.

The council agreed not to pass on the government’s cut to council tax benefit funding to low income claimants at a full council meeting on Thursday (February 14).

From April the government will reduce funding of council tax benefit by 10 per cent. In Harrogate Borough Council’s case this amounts to £128,000 but overall £900,000 will be cut when North Yorkshire County Council, the Police and Fire Service’s share of council tax is taken into account.

Despite this the council tax benefit scheme will be maintained for benefit claimants and all residents of state pension age will be unaffected by any changes.

Coun Ivor Fox, cabinet member for finance said: “We are the only council in North Yorkshire doing this because we believe we shouldn’t pass these costs on to the most vulnerable people if we can afford not to.”

“We are a caring council, Harrogate Council is a council that cares”

John Murray, head of revenue and benefits at Harrogate Borough Council emphasised that benefit claimants are most often people working hard but in low paid jobs.

He said: “Currently there more people claiming because they are in low paid work and they are claiming just to make ends meet.”

Changes from April 2013 include second homes in the district being charged full council tax and unoccupied properties that have been empty for over two years being charged 125 per cent council tax per annum.

Coun Fox, said: “We have tried to apply these changes in a fair and equitable way.”

Meanwhile unoccupied properties undergoing structural alteration will be eligible for a 50 per cent discount for up to 12 months and unoccupied and unfurnished properties will incur no charge for the first week they are empty and a 40 per cent discount for the initial six months.

Coun Fox said the council hopes this will encourage more movement in the housing market in the district.

From April 1 the national change to housing benefit, known as bedroom tax, will affect tenants in public and social sector housing in the district.

The 241 Harrogate Borough Council tenants who have been assessed as under occupying properties by one bedroom will lose 14 per cent of their housing benefit whilst the 65 council tenants under occupying by 2 bedrooms will lose 25 per cent of their housing benefit.

Letters were issued by Harrogate Borough Council on Friday February 15 alerting those who will be affected by the changes.

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