The Government is transferring responsibility for the benefit to local authorities as well as cutting the budget by 10 per cent, as part of its drive to persuade claimants back into work. But pensioners, who make up almost exactly 50 per cent of CTB recipients in Huntingdonshire, are protected from any reduction in benefit, so the weight of the Whitehall cut will fall either on taxpayers or people of working age. Making working age claimants pay 20 per cent of the tax due is one of the options the district councils cabinet will be considering in September. Others include reducing the six months tax-free period for properties unoccupied and unfurnished such as those between owners or tenants or homes being extensively renovated and abolishing the 10 per cent Council Tax discount HDC allows owners of second homes. There are some big sums at stake. HDCs head of customer services, Julia Barber, says the council expects to lose around £1.3million as a result of the transfer of responsibility from central to local government, and the relief on unfurnished homes costs the council several hundred thousand pounds a year. But it will not wish to introduce a scheme that costs more to administer than the income it generates, so it will need to be careful about what period it settles on to replace the current six months. Also on the cards is the prospect of surcharging long-term empty properties as an incentive to owners to bring them back into the districts housing stock. That could mean owners being charged at 150 per cent of the rate for an occupied property. INFORMATION: HDC plans to start a public consultation on the changes to Council Tax Benefit, including drop-in sessions for claimants, on August 20. South Cambs DC begins a similar consultation today (Wednesday).