THOUSANDS of people claiming benefits will have to pay more council tax when a new scheme comes into force next year.
More than 19,000 people across the district could be expected to contribute at least a third of their council tax bill when the government scraps its current benefit scheme next April.
Only pensioners will not be affected by the changes and Wakefield Council will be asking the public for their say during a public consultation between August and October.
At a cabinet meeting on Tuesday, which saw senior councillors rubber stamp a draft scheme for the localisation of council tax, Coun Graham Stokes said it was the “fairest scheme possible under the circumstances.”
He added: “The council will end up trying to collect small sums from households that have never had to pay council tax before and because they can’t afford to pay it, they will end up in debt.
“But we’ve got no choice.”
The report to cabinet said some claimants currently received 100 per cent council tax benefit but based on the new scheme people would only be able to claim maximum support of 67 per cent towards their council tax bill.
The scheme’s core principles also include means-testing the level of benefit awarded, incentivising work, ensuring those with large savings or investments are not entitled to benefit, and those aged over 18 living in a household contributing to the bill.
Coun Stokes added the council faced an 11 per cent reduction in funding – leading to a shortfall of £5m - for council tax benefit and would have to address that cut on top of the other funding cuts of £95m already being imposed over the next six years.
He said: “We are committed to protecting those most in need in our communities and will do all we can to make sure Wakefield’s local scheme is fair and recognises individual circumstances.
“We believe that everyone of working age should pay something. The public consultation on this local scheme will start in August giving people the opportunity to tell us what they think and it is really important that we hear their views.”
A full council decision will be taken on the localised scheme by January 31, 2013.