In response to Coun Andy D’Agorne on the subject of council tax benefit, readers may be aware of changes to the current scheme starting in April.

The benefit is being abolished and replaced with a local support scheme, but with £1.3m less (ten per cent) in annual funding from the Government.

Some 6,500 pensioners are protected while 6,000 fellow residents, many in low paid work, are not, meaning they will be much harder hit. Alongside this change the council is taking on responsibility for managing the social fund which awards grants and loans to thousands of vulnerable people.

The council will make awards to those in need following set criteria, yet Government funding will be fixed regardless of applicants so the council could end up with a shortfall to fund.

In addition, the council is in the middle of a £63m funding reduction from Government for the period of 2010 to 2015.

The council’s financial inclusion strategy sets out what we are doing to support the most vulnerable residents and I’m sorry Coun D’Agorne has not been involved in this work. If he had, then he’d understand the challenges we face and what we are doing about them.

Coun Julie Gunnell, Cabinet Member for Corporate Services.