The future of a council tax discount for pensioners is to be considered by Barnsley Council because the cost of the scheme is likely to 'put more pressure on limited financial resources'.
The council has approved the pensioner discount every year since 2009/10 after recognising the difficulties elderly residents face in meeting annual council tax rises. The discount is not means tested and all claimants receive a flat rate, banded discount so they pay the same amount of council tax as it would have been in 2008/9.
A council report says there is a significant take up with 10,300 households claiming a total discount of £490,000. It means on average, each qualifying household receives an annual discount of about £47, although those in higher banded properties receive considerably more.
However, the council says it is under increasing financial pressure to deliver services while making millions of pounds of efficiency savings to meet budget targets in the coming years. The report says recent take up and data suggests if the scheme continues unchanged, discount claims will continue to increase, rising to more than 10,750 claimants by 2016/17.
That would see the cost of the scheme increase 'considerably' according to the report, costing the council about £602,000, rising to about £826,000 in 2015/16 and £1,060,000 in 2016/17. The report states: "The discount is not means tested and there is no evidence to suggest that retaining or removing it would have any significant detrimental impact on pensioners currently claiming the scheme.
"This report shows that, without further check, the cost of the scheme will continue to rise, putting more pressure on the council's already limited financial resources. Members therefore need to consider if the council can continue to financially support a non-statutory pensioner discount scheme in this current climate."
Several options have been outlined for the pensioner discount scheme including removing the pensioner discount immediately, having a phased removal over a number of years, extending the scheme or restricting it to certain council tax property bands. The report says: "The options are put forward for consideration. It is recommended however that approval be given to phasing out the council tax pensioner discount scheme over a five year period from 2014/15."