London

Westminster council proposes to link tax benefit to behaviour

The amount of council tax benefit residents in Westminster receive could be linked to how they act under new proposals.

The Conservative-run council wants to cut or refuse council tax benefits unless "certain levels of behaviour" are maintained.

It said it was the first authority in the UK to suggest introducing this.

Labour said the proposals lacked detail and were a "knee-jerk" reaction to people's anti-social behaviour fears.

Currently the benefit is paid to those that have to pay the tax but whose funds are below a certain level.

'Cracking down'

About 23,600 households in Westminster currently receive the benefit at an average cost of £563 per household, per year.

At present it is handed out by local authorities on behalf of the government but from April 2013 it becomes a local authority responsibility, meaning councils can introduce a ceiling on individual households or qualifying criteria for payment of the benefit.

Philippa Roe, the council's cabinet member for strategy finance, said: "We believe strongly that the days of something for nothing are over.

"Therefore, we believe that potentially linking council tax benefit to certain levels of behaviour is a sensible and fair way forward that rewards those that play an active part in their community whilst cracking down on those that misbehave or break the law."

But Paul Dimoldenberg, Labour leader on the council, said: "Everybody should behave in an acceptable way, that goes without saying in any civilised society, but until we get more details about how the council is going to enforce this policy and whom it would apply to, it seems to be a knee-jerk reaction to people's understandable fears about anti-social behaviour."

He added more detail was needed on how it would work, what is deemed to be anti-social behaviour, who would be targeted and how the council would enforce its decisions.

The consultation runs until 10 February.

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