Benefit changes could hit us hard

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THOUSANDS of people could be forced to pay hundreds of pounds more council tax from 2013 as part of a big benefits overhaul.

A major consultation has started on a new benefits scheme in light of radical Government reforms to the system.

It will see council tax benefits capped at 75 per cent for everyone of working age – but excludes pensioners.

That means some people who are currently exempt from council tax bills will have to pay.

The council tax benefit pot, currently £4.7 million per year, will be cut by 10 per cent, potentially affecting more than 3,000 people in Boston.

However experts in the town say council tax changes are only part of the bigger picture.

Chief officer at Boston Citizen’s Advice Bureau (CAB) Stuart Hellon said the knock on effect of all the welfare reforms will have a major impact on people’s financial capabilities.

He said: “We’re sure there’s going to be an impact, we’re just not sure how big.

“It’s not just happening to people you might call ‘benefit scroungers’ either, it will affect people who are working their socks off.”

He said benefits being capped at £500 a week could mean people losing more than £100.

He warned organisations like CAB, which is already facing an overabundance of customers, will need more volunteers and support to deal with the ‘fairly substantial increase’ of people who need their help.

He said: “We can’t satisfy all the demand for our services at the moment, we’re only going to be able to turn people away, it’s not nice doing that.”

However, he added: “What we don’t want people to do is bury their heads in the sand but say ‘I’m in that position, I need to talk to somebody now’, not next year when it hits them between the eyes.”

The consultation also shows plans to charge more for owners of empty properties.