Council tax benefit changes

Written on . Posted in Benefits, Buckhurst Hill, Chigwell, Community, Council tax, Epping, Loughton, Older people, Ongar, Residents, Waltham Abbey, Young people, Your area, Your community, Your home, Your money

Council tax benefit is changing from 1 April 2013 in line with national welfare reforms. All local councils will replace it with their own locally run service, known as the local council tax support scheme.

How is council tax benefit changing?

Epping Forest District Council will create a local scheme that is suitable for the area, working within a budget that has been reduced by over £1 million from its current spend.

How will this affect me?

This reduction in funding means we have to make some difficult decisions about who gets financial support and how much. This could mean that from April 2013 people who pay no council tax may have to pay some, and those who currently pay some may have to pay more. We can’t say how your benefit will be affected at this stage or how much you may have to pay.

Proposals for the local council tax support include

  • The calculation of support will be based on 80% of the council tax bill, rather than 100% at present
  • The calculation of support will be based on a maximum of a band D property. This means that anyone of working age that lives higher council tax band, will be calculated as if their property was a band D
  • Inclusion of child maintenance in the calculation with a disregard of £15 per week (per family)
  • The capital limit will be reduced from the current level of £16,000 to £6,000
  • Second adult rebate will not be included in the scheme for people of working age
  • A minimum award of £0.50 per week. This is in line with the minimum award in housing benefit

Pension age people are protected from any reduction to their benefit payments under the new scheme although they may need to pay more if council tax increases.

Comment on potential changes to planning permission for extensions

Written on . Posted in Building control, Business, Business rates, Commercial properties, Conservation and listed buildings, Consultation, Gypsy and traveller, Housing, Housing repairs, Licensing, Local business, Local plan / planning our future, Planning, Private housing, Regulations, Residents, Supporting business, Your area, Your community, Your council, Your environment, Your home, Your money

The Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) has issued a consultation document for 6 weeks seeking comments on possible temporary changes to permitted development rights on extensions.

Among its proposed course of action is to allow homeowners and businesses to make larger extensions to their homes and business premises without needing to submit a planning application. For example, this could allow a maximum 8 metre depth for a single storey rear extension to a detached house and 6 metre depth for any other type of house, without needing planning permission. If approved, this would be a temporary measure for 3 years.

You can comment on this consultation direct to the DCLG, which ends on 24 December 2012, on a downloadable response form by following the link below. This form also includes details of the proposals.

Comment on the DCLG consultation document

New planning application fees

Written on . Posted in Building control, Business, Business rates, Commercial properties, Conservation and listed buildings, Crime and safety, Doing business with the council, Housing, Local business, Local plan / planning our future, Out and about, Planning, Regulations, Residents, Supporting business, Trees and landscapes, Your area, Your community, Your council, Your environment, Your home, Your money

As from 22 November 2012, there will be a new level of planning application fees, which  will increase by 15 percent above the current level.  This is the first national increase since 2008 and therefore any planning applications received from this date will require the new fee. 

 Please follow this link to view the new charges

 

Important information for housing tenants

Written on . Posted in Benefits, Housing, Residents, Your community, Your money

The September 2012 edition of Housing News is currently being delivered to council tenants.

It has come to our attention that the Welfare Reforms article on page 4, point 3, contains a small error.  It states that From April 2013 all council tenants of non-pensionable age will receive their benefit direct and will then have to pay their rent themselves. In fact only people who make a new claim for universal credit, which will replace housing benefit from October 2013, will have to pay their rent themselves out of the universal credit they will receive directly.

All tenants in receipt of housing benefit will continue to have their housing benefit paid directly to their rent account until they are migrated to universal credit. It is the Government’s intention to migrate existing housing benefit claims over to universal credit some time between October 2013 and 2017, although the date for Epping Forest District Council’s caseload to be transferred is not yet known.

Essex Key Facts: Latest edition of district area data published

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Image showing many datasets being compared
 

Data is everywhere!

With moves to a more open approach to publishing statistical information and data being encouraged across the public sector, more and more datasets, covering more and more subjects, are becoming widely accessible to all.

Unfortunately, amongst the biggest constraints on accessing the data you need can be knowing where to look, finding the time to visit the many varied websites that publish data and identifying the information you require from amongst what can appear to be an overwhelming amount of statistics that you don’t need.

To make this task a little easier and to help our residents, businesses, students and visitors find relevant data in a more straightforward and direct way, we publish a regular compilation of many of the datasets that are available. ‘Essex Councils Key Facts’ pulls together information on a wide range of subjects and allows readers to see how Epping Forest District compares with its Essex neighbours. The figures give a context to the environment in which we live, work, study and do business, and help paint a picture of some of the issues that face us all on a day to day basis.

Our latest issue, ‘Essex Key Facts Volume 4’, has recently been published and covers Business Data, Jobs and Skills Mismatch Analysis, Access to Key Services and Rural Accessibility to Services. You can find this issue, alongside copies of our previous editions, on our website by following the link below:

 
We hope you find these publications useful and easy to use. If you have any comments on the documents, please drop us a line by email on performance@eppingforestdc.gov.uk
 
The following previous editions are also available:
 
Volume 1: Political control, council tax, population, ethnicity, health, welfare, education, business & employment, carbon emissions, land use mix
Volume 2: Planning, housing, deprivation, mortality, older people care needs, crime
Volume 3: Audit Commission Value For Money profiles

Full Council 27 September

Written on . Posted in Business, Chairman, Commercial properties, Consultation, Councillors, Epping, Housing, Leader, Local business, Local plan / planning our future, Our performance, Performance, Planning, Sports centres and pools, Supporting business, Your council, Your money

Members of the Epping Forest Youth Council attended the Full Council meeting on 27 September 2012. On the agenda to be  discussed were Council Tax, the Local Plan consultation, annual accounts, the St Johns Road development and North Weald Airfield.

Watch the webcast in full

Chairman’s announcements

Councillor Brian Rolfe, Chairman of Epping Forest District Council began his announcements with a special welcome to Glen Chipp. Mr Chipp is due to take up his new duties as Chief Executive of Epping Forest District Council on 1 October 2012. North Weald Airfield featured prominently in the Chairman’s report of his activities during September.

The close ties of friendship between the district and the people of Norway was reinforced by a recent visit of Norwegian RAF veterans and serving members of the Royal Norwegian Air Force. The Chairman also formed part of the welcome to serving and veteran members of No 56 Squadron RAF on Battle of Britain Sunday. 56 Squadron served with distinction, flying from North Weald during the Battle of Britain. Battle honours of 56 Squadron are displayed on its old Standard which was dedicated to St Andrew’s Church in North Weald.

Epping Forest District Council lost the Annual Petanque match with Epping Town Council. Councillor Rolfe and Councillor David Stallan represented the District Council. ‘Dubious tactics’ were alleged before congratulations were offered to the Town Council represented by dual-hatted councillors Jon Whitehouse and Will Breare-Hall.

No increase for Council Tax

Councillor Syd Stavrou, Finance Portfolio Holder, briefed councillors on future financial settlements. She left councillors in no doubt of her belief in the desirability of a zero per cent council tax increase next year.

Local Plan consultation

Councillor Richard Bassett, Planning Portfolio Holder updated councillors on Community Choices. 224 formal responses have been received in response to the Local Plan consultation so far. Council staff have been meeting residents. Almost 1,000 people have attended the Community Choices meetings held across the district over the last six weeks or so.

Annual statement of accounts

The annual statement of accounts for 2011/12 was presented by the Chairman of the Audit and Governance Committee, Councillor Antony Watts. Councillor Watts recommended interested councillors watch the webcast of Audit and Governance committee on 24 September where Finance Director Bob Palmer gave a comprehensive presentation.

Councillor Watts drew attention to a number of changes in production of the latest statement including assessments of depreciation on council assets and the pension fund. He also highlighted the major financial commitment of £185 million stemming from changes to the Housing Subsidy system. He concluded by thanking the Auditors and the Council’s own finance officers before recommending the report. Councillor Syd Stavrou responded to Councillor Watts. She assured councillors of the long term benefits to the Council by making a single one-off payment of £185 million instead of on-going annual payments to central government of £11 million.

The Council’s financial position is better than anticipated despite cuts in central government funding. Councillor Stavrou also recommended acceptance of the annual statement of accounts which met with the approval of the Council. 

St John’s Road design and development brief

Asset Management Portfolio Holder Anne Grigg recommended approval of the St John’s Road Design and Development brief to Full Council. Fellow cabinet member and Epping Councillor, Will Breare-Hall welcomed the brief as amended following consultation earlier in the summer. In particular he drew attention to the shift in emphasis from retail to leisure provision in line with the views expressed by local residents.

Councillor Chris Whitbread, Leader of Council looked forward to discussion based on the brief with other landowners. Ward Councillor Tony Church sought reassurance on the issue of a supermarket. Councillor Grigg responded by drawing a distinction between a supermarket which drew wide-spread public opposition and other forms of retail such as a department store which found favour with some local residents. Councillor Janet Whitehouse asserted that she would have preferred a stronger plan and abstained when councillors voted in favour of the adoption of the Brief.

North Weald Airfield

A budget of £150,000 was agreed to enable Epping Forest District Council to commission further work on the future of North Weald Airfield. Referring to recommendations by Ernst and Young, Asset Management Portfolio Holder Anne Grigg encouraged councillors to approve the two-stage process looking at aviation and non-aviation options.

Council Tax Benefit reform consultation

Written on . Posted in Benefits, Consultation, Council tax, Residents, Your money

Epping Forest District residents will have their say on how support for Council Tax  payments will be provided to local people on low incomes.

Under the Welfare Reform Act, the Government will end Council Tax Benefit on 31 March 2013 to be replaced by a Local Council Tax Support scheme (LCTS). The Government is moving responsibility for the new scheme to councils and reducing the amount of money it provides. The Government funding allocated to Epping Forest District for LCTS is expected to fall to 88% of its current Council Tax Benefit value. For Epping Forest District Council, this means a drop of approximately £1 million.

Residents will be asked to comment on the proposals stemming from the Government’s reforms. District and borough councils in the county have been working together with Essex County Council to design, develop and deliver a framework for the new LCTS schemes and tackle the reduction in funding.

Pensioners are protected from any reduction to their benefit payments. If benefit payments are to be met without significant costs to Council Tax Payers or reductions in other services, the support given to those of working age will need to be reduced.

The proposed Epping Forest framework incorporates five key principles for working age claimants:
• Calculation of support will be based on 80 per cent of the Council Tax bill rather than 100 per cent as at present.
• The calculation of benefit will be on the maximum of a Band D property. Anyone in a higher banded property will only be able to claim at the Band D rate.
• Child maintenance will be taken into account when assessing income although £15.00 per week will be disregarded.
• Anyone with savings of more than £6,000 will not be eligible
• An exceptional hardship scheme will provide a safety net for people in particular need.

Epping Forest District Council is also seeking views on whether child benefit should be included in the calculation, whether there should be a standard charge for other adults living in a property and whether any groups of people, such as disabled or young families should receive any protection. 

It is proposed that some forms of income such as Disability Living Allowance and War Disablement Pensions be excluded from the calculations to ensure the most vulnerable groups in the community are protected from the reductions.

Councillor Chris Whitbread, Leader of Epping Forest District Council said: “These are tough choices. Some people who have never paid Council Tax before will do so for the first time. We are working to ensure no-one is left unable to fend for themselves without a roof over their head. The elderly and most vulnerable groups should be protected. Working age people should be encouraged to work. Families on low incomes should receive some support and thrift should be rewarded. Nevertheless, I do not understate the potential impact on people of working age on low incomes if these proposals are adopted. It is therefore vital that people look very carefully at the proposals and reply to the consultation.”

Cabinet meeting on 23 July approved proposals for everyone in receipt of Council Tax Benefit in Epping Forest district to be contacted directly during a six-week period starting on 1 August as part of the pan-Essex consultation. At the end of the consultation period, the feedback received will be considered by the Cabinet with final approval of the new scheme planned for the meeting of Full Council on 18 December.

All residents are being invited to participate whether or not they are in receipt of Council Tax Benefit. The consultation is available here from 1 August with links to the questionnaire on the Essex County Council website.

Implementation of Universal Credit from October 2013

Written on . Posted in Benefits, Residents, Your money

The current complex system of working-age benefits and Tax Credits is to be gradually replaced by a new benefit called Universal Credit. The process of moving existing claimants on to Universal Credit should be completed by October 2017.

From 2013/2014 Universal Credit will replace Income Support, Income Based Jobseekers Allowance, Income Related Employment Support Allowance, Housing Benefit, Child Tax Credit and Working Tax Credit.

The following benefits will remain outside of Universal Credit (this is subject to change) –

Council Tax Benefit (soon to be known as Council Tax Support), Carers Allowance, Contribution based Job Seekers Allowance and Employment and Support Allowance, Disability living Allowance (soon to be known as Personal Independence Payment), Child Benefit, Social Fund, Statutory Sick Pay, Statutory Maternity Pay, Maternity Allowance, Industrial Injuries Disablement Allowance and Bereavement Benefits.

It is not known as yet about the entitlement to Free School Meals and Free Prescriptions.

An award of universal credit is calculated as a basic allowance for either a single person or couple plus additional amounts for:

  • each child or qualifying young person for whom you are responsible (with extra additions if they are disabled)
  • child care costs
  • claimants with a ‘limited capability for work’
  • claimants with regular and substantial caring responsibilities for a severely disabled person
  • housing costs (mortgage interest payments for unemployed claimants and rent payments)

You will get the full allowance possible if your household has no other income and has less than £6000 savings.

There will be no award if your savings are over £16,000.

Earned Income (after disregards are applied) will reduce Universal Credit by a ‘taper rate’ of 65% (or 76% after tax and NI) which means households keep 35p in every £1.

Unearned Income will reduce Universal Credit by a 100% taper rate, that is for every £1 or unearned income, Universal Credit will reduce by £1.

There will be one payment per household, paid monthly.

Timeline for Replacement of Housing Benefit

The transition will take place in 3 phases over four years between 2013 and 2017.

  • October 2013 to April 2014

500,000 people making new claims for the benefits Universal Credit replaces will get Universal Credit instead. Please note this is for customers who are out of work

500,000 existing claimants (and their partners and dependants) will move on to Universal Credit as and when they have a significant change of circumstances, such as starting a new job or when a child is born.

  • From April 2014

New claims for people who are working will move to universal credit fromApril 2014..

  • From the end of 2015 – the end of 2017

Around 3 million households will be phased transferred to Universal Credit by local authority boundary as the old benefit system winds down.

Change to Disability Living Allowance from April 2013

Written on . Posted in Benefits, Residents, Your money

The government proposes to replace DLA with a new benefit called Personal Independence Payment (PIP).

This will involve the introduction of stricter assessments to decide eligibility. The main aim of this is to help decide the person’s need as a result of the disability rather than making decision based on the disability itself. Unlike Disability Living Allowance Personal Independence Payment will be reviewed on a periodic basis to determine that there is still a need to have this help.

At the moment the government only plans to replace Disability Living Allowance (DLA) with Personal Independence Payment (PIP) for working-age claimants.

Between October 2013 and March 2016 all the existing people aged 16 to Pension Age receiving Disability Living Allowance will be written to about claiming the new benefit instead.

PIP will be made up of two components. A person can claim either one or both. The components are:

  • a daily living component, which relates to a claimants ability to carry out a prescribed list of daily living activities AND
  • a mobility component, which relates to a claimants ability to carry a prescribed list of mobility activities.

Daily Living Component – There are two rates.

  • Standard Rate for those whose ability to carry out daily living activities is limited by the person physical or mental condition.
  • Enhanced Rate for those whose ability to carry out daily living activities is severely limited by the person physical or mental condition

Mobility Component – There are two rates

  • Standard Rate for those whose ability to carry out mobility activities is limited by the person physical or mental condition.
  • Enhanced Rate for those whose ability to carry out mobility activities is severely limited by the person physical or mental condition

The award will be for a fixed term. To qualify it must be that the qualifying condition(s) existed for at least 3 months and are expected to last at least a further 9 months.

Benefit Cap from April 2013

Written on . Posted in Benefits, Residents, Your money

There will be a cap on the amount of benefits a working-age household can receive. The following benefits are included in the cap:

  • Bereavement Allowance/Widowed Parents/Mothers Allowance
  • Carers Allowance
  • Child Benefit
  • Child Tax Credit
  • Employment and Support Allowance (except where Support Component has been awarded)
  • Guardian’s Allowance
  • Housing Benefit (payments of Discretionary Housing Payments are excluded)
  • Incapacity Benefit
  • Income Support
  • Job Seekers Allowance
  • Maternity Allowance
  • Severe Disablement Allowance
  • Widow’s Pension

Any benefit or other income that are not included in the above list will not be taken into account when calculating the level of the cap.

There are some exclusions about who will be affected by the cap. The cap will not apply to households where the claimant, partner or any dependant child receives or is entitled to the following:

  • Disability Living Allowance or Personal Independence Payment
  • Attendance Allowance
  • Working Tax Credits
  • War Widows, War Widowers or War Disablement pension
  • Employment and Support Allowance (Support Component)
  • Industrial Injuries Benefits
  • Armed Forces Compensation Scheme payments

The cap will be set at £500 per week for couples and lone parents and at £350 per week for single adults. It will be implemented by means of a deduction from Housing Benefit payments until Universal Credit starts in October 2013 when it will be incorporated into the payment of the new benefit.

The cap will not be applied for 39 weeks to those who have been in work continuously for the previous 12 months and who lose their job through no fault of their own.

Extra help and advice

Extra funding will be awarded to the Discretionary Housing Payment fund to provide assistance to vulnerable households.

The Department for Work and Pensions have been and will be continuing to contact those that are going to be affected by the cap via a letter. Alternatively you can