£3.8million council tax benefit black hole for Gloucestershire councils
A £3.8 MILLION black hole needs to be filled to protect vulnerable pensioners from council tax benefit cuts.
Councillors will have to find the extra cash next year after the Government cut the money it gives to councils for benefits by 10 per cent.
If the money is found elsewhere, council tax benefits will remain unaffected for one year. But residents will feel the pinch in 2014 when up to 20 per cent cuts could be passed on to them.
The Government wants thousands of pensioners in the county protected from benefits cuts, meaning the burden would be passed on to others.
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The breakdown of the black hole is:
Gloucestershire County £2,767,000
Police Authority £507,000
Stroud District £108,000
Gloucester City £107,000
Cheltenham Borough £90,000
Forest of Dean District £84,000
Cotswold District £65,000
Tewkesbury Borough £42,000.
Sandra Cowley, head of finance at Stroud District Council, said: "The choices we have are to either reduce people's benefits or find some other way to fund it.
"The people who will be affected are already on low incomes and it could create a host of other problems.
"The reason we are taking this measured approach is because there will be further changes coming in next year. The Government is rushing this through at a horrendous pace."
John Rawson (LD, St Peter's), deputy leader of Cheltenham Borough Council, said: "We realise that if you pass this cut straight on to people on benefits, some very vulnerable families will lose out very heavily."
Deputy leader of Gloucester City Council, Debbie Llewellyn (Con, Quedgeley Fieldcourt), said: "We want to ensure the impact on people who really depend on this benefit is minimised while changes to the welfare system are being made nationally and grant funding is being reduced.
"Our immediate priority is to ensure we protect our current claimants."
The Government is scrapping the Council Tax Benefits scheme and replacing it with a locally-controlled Council Tax Support scheme. Gloucester's Citizens Advice Bureau said the changes will impact on people already struggling to cope.
Residents can air their views before October 5 at www.gloucester.gov.uk or by calling 01452 396396.