CORNWALL Council will have to go back to the drawing board to deal with the responsibility of council tax benefit after three different proposals were rejected by councillors. Central Government has handed responsibility for council tax benefit to local councils. But to provide the benefit in its current form will cost Cornwall Council more than £4 million. As a result the council's finance officers, supported by the leading Cabinet, had suggested scrapping 100 per cent council tax benefit and only providing a maximum of 75 per cent – this would mean every household having to pay at least 25 per cent of their council tax bill. A long debate was held about the issue at a meeting of the full council on Tuesday. Councillor Chris Goninan was supported by many councillors when he said: "We say we will protect the most vulnerable – ask yourself are we doing that? My reply is an emphatic no." Liberal Democrat councillor Alex Folkes put forward a proposal for the existing scheme to be continued and funded using money raised by a recent decision to increase the amount of council tax paid by second home owners and landlords with empty properties. However the motion was narrowly defeated by 44 votes to 41. Cabinet member Fiona Ferguson then put forward an alternative which was also defeated. The council needs to make a decision in the next fortnight as if no scheme is in place by January 31 it will be forced to adopt the current system and level of benefits paid.
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