Leeds: ‘Get help to get a job - or lose your council tax benefits’

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UNEMPLOYED people who fail to engage with job search services in Leeds could face losing their council tax benefits next year.

The Council Tax Support (CTS) could be slashed as part of wider welfare reforms.

The decision to penalise those jobless people who fail to take up additional support to help them into work within six months of their first claim is a major part of the planned shake-up of Leeds City Council’s current CTS scheme.

The council-run but largely Government-funded £49.6million scheme, which replaced Council Tax Benefit (CTB) in 2013, has been deemed “unsustainable in the long term” in a new report. The new-look scheme has been recommended for approval in a report set to go before Leeds City Council’s executive board today.

It states that the plans are “aimed at providing greater incentives and support for households to improve their employment prospects”.

As part of the revised scheme, “non-protected working age” CTS claimants will receive 25 per cent less than they would have got through the CTB scheme and will have to pay a quarter of their council tax bill themselves from April 1 2015. That represents a six per cent loss for most claimants, who currently receive 19 per cent less than through CTB, but pay 26 per cent of their council tax.

The council report states: “The change was needed to reflect an increase in the numbers of customers in the protected groups which had led to a scheme overspend in 2013/14 and the likelihood of increased council tax charges.”

Next year’s proposed scheme once again protects vulnerable groups such as recipients of war pensions or war widows, lone parents with children under five, carers and the disabled from any changes.