THOUSANDS of people across Barnsley could be affected by government changes to council tax after a £2.9 million shortfall was identified.

Council tax benefit will cease to exist in April 2013, and it will be replaced by a localised scheme run by councils.

But, the council says that because funding for the scheme has been reduced, Barnsley is left with a shortfall of £2.9 million.

It admits that while pensioners are unaffected, anyone of working age who currently gets council tax benefit of any kind will be affected.

The council is looking at various options which could include increasing the amount that all working age claimants have to pay.

It is also considering increasing council tax charges on empty properties and second homes to make up some of the shortfall.

A consultation has now been launched for local people to give their views and drop in sessions will be held at Barnsley Central Library, Shambles Street on 16 October from 1pm to 5pm; 19 October from 1pm to 4.30pm; 24 October from 1pm to 5pm.