The publication of a consultation on plans to localise council tax benefit has done little to ease concerns over the financial burden being placed on local authorities.
The consultation confirmed plans set out in October’s spending review for council tax benefit to be localised in 2013-14, coupled with a 10% reduction in its funding pot, meaning councils will have to find £480m in savings.
Senior figures repeated the Local Government Association’s concerns raised when the plans were first floated: that the move could lead to local government taking on extra financial risk without sufficient flexibilities to cope.
They told LGC they were disappointed the consultation had not raised the issue of councils being given wider discretion to target existing discounts, such as the single person’s and empty property council tax reliefs.
One senior local government source said: “In order to make the substantial 10% saving, councils will need to have as much leeway as possible.”
However, a Department for Communities & Local Government spokeswoman told LGC no final decisions had been made on giving local authorities extra discretion around council tax reliefs. “We are keeping that under review,” she said.
The LGA has previously raised concerns around risk, stating that an increased caseload could be caused by issues outside council control, such as future unemployment levels and growing numbers of pensioners, which could leave local authorities facing a shortfall in funding.