PLANNED changes to a council tax reduction scheme could negatively impact on residents receiving social care, the portfolio holder for adult social care has warned.

St Helens Council is required to have a council tax reduction scheme that provides a discount to residents in financial need.

For 2019-20, the council is proposing to increase the maximum award available under the scheme from 80 per cent to 85 per cent of council tax liability.

The council is also proposing to amend the scheme to incorporate provision for care leavers who qualify for both council tax reduction and a discretionary council tax discount within the scheme.

Lastly, the council is proposing to consider the introduction of an earnings disregard for applicants in receipt of Universal Credit. Thye will also review existing earnings disregards for other applicants.

Cllr Marlene Quinn, cabinet member for adult social care, told cabinet this week she had “reservations” about this change as she believes it could see residents who receive social care incur a social care charge.

The Labour councillor said the change would affect the disposable income of care users, which could have an impact on any financial assessments carried out by the council.

Cllr Quinn said: “That financial assessment has a number of disregards and the council have added certain things to our own scheme that complements it, and we are to be applauded for that.

“But it then leaves an element of disposable income to an individual.

“And if this discount increases their disposable income level above their threshold allowed, it could mean that whilst we’re giving with one hand, we’re taking back with the other hand.”

Cabinet agreed to consult with the Merseyside Police and Crime Commissioner, Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service and other interested parties on the proposed changes.

Members also agreed “in principle” to raise council tax from April by 2.99 per cent, which will be subject to a public consultation.

In addition, cabinet approved plans to consult with residents and other interested parties about increasing the long-term empty premium for empty properties from 50 per cent to 100 per cent from April 1.

Cllr Lynn Clarke, cabinet member for better neighbourhoods, welcomed the move.

The town centre ward councillor said: “I welcome any incentives to bring empty properties back into use, both as a tool to help the homeless people or to people to become renters or homeowners.

“But also, in terms of the environment and the blight empty properties has on our communities. It’s been an attraction to vandalism and fly-tipping.

“So, anything that helps that is welcomed by me.”