Less funding could mean higher payments for people who get housing tax benefit

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RESIDENTS who receive housing tax benefit are facing a potential hike in payments because of a drop in Government funding.

Eastbourne Borough Council revealed this week it has been told to expect 10 per cent less in cash from the Coalition next year but would still be under pressure to provide vulnerable locals with rate relief.

There are currently 10,559 people in Eastbourne who get housing tax benefit – including 4,777 pensioners. This costs the council £9.6million in 2011-12, with £4.4million of that going toward supporting the elderly claimants.

And Government guidelines state that local councils have to maintain the financial backing to the elderly, which means the amount of cash left to provide benefit to working age claimants will have effectively been cut by 19 per cent.

Councillor David Tutt, who heads the local authority, accused the Government of passing the buck under the disguise of localism.

Speaking at a meeting on Wednesday, Cllr Tutt said, “I am extremely worried about the potential impact. The Government has handed us a poisoned chalice and are giving us the choice of where to apply the pain.

“I am also fearful of the impact this will have on the individuals who are currently beneficiaries. I cannot pretend I am anything but worried.”

The news came on the same day as council officers published figures on council tax.

The collection rate for the last year were 97.5 per cent – the highest in recent years.