Vow to fill gap in benefit cash

Oxfordshire’s hard-up councils have vowed to bridge a £3.2m benefit shortfall created by Government cuts.

Responsibility for council tax benefit will be handed to local authorities next year, but they also face a 10 per cent funding cut.

The council tax benefit bill for the county this year is estimated at £33.5m, but funding will be cut to £30.3m next year. It means an extra £20,000 a week will need to be found to fund benefits for Oxford’s 10,480 claimants alone.

Some councils plan to axe some payments to bridge the gap, but Oxfordshire’s five districts and the county council say they will all find savings elsewhere to cover the costs next year.

However, a consultation has been launched to look at how to fund the benefit in the future.

Oxford City Council ’s executive member for customer services, Val Smith, said the joint approach had been adopted to avoid a ‘postcode lottery’ and protect people on low incomes.

She said: “We didn’t want to to make any decision which would mean one part of the county is using a different system to the others.

“We’re very determined to safeguard people who are already clearly hard-pressed to find more money.”

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Oxfordshire County Council needs to find £2.5m and the city council needs £188,000 to plug the shortfall.

The other districts will have to find hundreds of thousands of pounds between them and Thames Valley Police face a funding gap of £332,000.

City council benefits manager Paul Wilding said: “The decision we’ve had to make is, do we try to save the money or do we try to collect it from people who at the moment receive the benefit.

“If we were going to collect it, it would be a case of introducing council tax for people who don’t already pay it, or increasing the amount some people already pay.”

Comments (2)

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9:44am Thu 30 Aug 12

Myron Blatz says...

Don't fancy the Tory-LibDem Coaltition chances of being returned to national government after all the mess they have created - but wouldn't bet on Labour or Lib-Lab Coalition reversing such draconian decisions, either! Despite what Cllr Bob Price and his Oxford Labour-led City Council might prefer us believe and preach, don't forget it was a Labour government which introduced Student Fees, and sent the Country into a debt-spiral by bailing-out the totally corrupt banking and financial services sector which had enabled Blair and Brown stay in power for 13 years. That said, have any readers got workable alternatives to Labour in Oxford, as we fast-approach County Council elections next year?
Don't fancy the Tory-LibDem Coaltition chances of being returned to national government after all the mess they have created - but wouldn't bet on Labour or Lib-Lab Coalition reversing such draconian decisions, either! Despite what Cllr Bob Price and his Oxford Labour-led City Council might prefer us believe and preach, don't forget it was a Labour government which introduced Student Fees, and sent the Country into a debt-spiral by bailing-out the totally corrupt banking and financial services sector which had enabled Blair and Brown stay in power for 13 years. That said, have any readers got workable alternatives to Labour in Oxford, as we fast-approach County Council elections next year? Myron Blatz
  • Score: -5

1:55pm Thu 30 Aug 12

xjohnx says...

Hmm. An easy decision for the council to take!

The rate payers will be the ones that pay the bill.

I think you will find it was Gordon Brown (Labour) who created the mess we are in now.
Hmm. An easy decision for the council to take! The rate payers will be the ones that pay the bill. I think you will find it was Gordon Brown (Labour) who created the mess we are in now. xjohnx
  • Score: -4

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