Council Tax rise ‘essential’

Fenland district councillor John Clark
Fenland district councillor John Clark

Council Tax bills for the coming year will be landing on people’s doormats next week. They will show an average increase of 1.7 per cent for Fenland District Council’s share of the tax.

The overall rise will be 2.3 per cent, taking into account rises announced by the county council, the Police and Crime Commissioner, the Fire Authority and some parish and town councils.

Announcing FDC’s increase, Councillor John Clark, portfolio holder responsible for finance, explained that the increase was essential to help meet a big reduction in government funding. It was also well below inflation and less than all the neighbouring authorities, he said.

The increases mean the average tax due for a Band D property this year is £1,617.08 – up by £4.05.

However, most people in Fenland will pay less than that because they fall into lower bands.

The three big changes this year are:

Council Tax Benefit: The Government has renamed this “Council Tax Support” (CTS) and reduced the amount FDC can give out by £1.2 million.

To balance the books and avoid cutting services, CTS has been cut by 8.5 per cent for everyone of working age. Pensioners (of state pension age) are legally protected from this reduction.

The changes mean some people may have to pay Council Tax for the first time this year.

Discounts and exemptions: Two exemptions (Class A – uninhabitable /properties needing /undergoing major repairs; and Class C – empty /unfurnished properties) no longer apply. Other exemptions remain. For details, see the leaflet that comes with your bill or go to www.fenland.gov.uk .

Empty properties will now pay 100 per cent of Council Tax from the day they become unoccupied.

If a property is unoccupied and unfurnished for more than two years, an extra 50 per cent premium will be charged.

Anyone who has a second, furnished home will have to pay 100 per cent Council Tax but not the extra premium after two years.

Spreading payments: Your bill is issued for payment over 10 payments but you can ask to spread it over 12 months. If you want to do this, contact FDC now. You will need to make a payment in April.

Cllr Clark explained that government funding had fallen from £17.3 million to £14.6 million over the past few years and FDC was facing another reduction of £1.25 million over the next two years.

The “lion’s share of the shortfall” would have to be found by other savings within the council and “it gets more and more difficult to find these without affecting our frontline services”, he said.

n You can apply for Council Tax Support online. Go to www.fenland.gov.uk and follow the links to the benefits calculator, or call into a Fenland @ your service shop where staff will help.

n If you have trouble paying, contact either FDC or the Citizens Advice Bureau or go to www.moneyadviceservice.org.uk. The crucial thing is that you do that now.