Ribble Valley’s lowest income households will be hit by benefit changes – but not as hard as expected thanks to efforts by Ribble Valley Borough Council.
That’s the considered view of staff at the Ribble Valley branch of the Citizen’s Advice Bureau, who say praise is due to the council for its local Council Tax Scheme, whic seeks to alleviate the effect of the national changes.
From April, people living on benefit in the neighbouring boroughs of Pendle, Hyndburn and Blackburn will face much higher Council Tax bills. In Ribble Valley the demands are due to be among the lowest in the county.
All of the 1,130 local Council Tax Benefit claimants (who make up 4.5% of the borough population and are the lowest income group) will have their bill discount reduced by 8.5%, but in these other East Lancashire areas people are looking at 20% reductions which will cause greater financial pressure.
This local advantage has been gained through the efforts of the council, in particular its Benefits Manager Mark Edmondson, who sought a workable solution to the issue of government cuts to council funding.
Advisers at Ribble Valley Citizens Advice Bureau are concerned that people who are now going to have to start making payments, however low, will default and face charges which will then lead to a deduction from weekly benefit at the rate of about £3.60 per week.
This will leave a single unemployed person with an income of £67.40 per week. And this comes alongside the new “bedroom tax”, which could make some of the same people £14 a week worse off.
Ribble Valley CAB Manager Katy Marshall said: “We are getting many more benefit enquiries now and we are due to get even busier after these changes in April. But we want to be used by the people most in need of our service so I would urge anyone who is anxious about the new Council Tax scheme or bedroom tax to get in touch for advice as soon as possible.”
Ribble Valley CAB is open for appointments or drop in weekdays except Wednesday at Wesleyan Row, Parson Lane, Clitheroe. Its Advice line is 01200 428966 and the Administration line is 427336.
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