Concern over changes to council tax support

Douglas McCall
Douglas McCall

COUNCIL tax for those on benefits is set to rise in April after the government approved plans to cut funding to local councils.

Central government is cutting 10 per cent of funding to local administrations, forcing some councils to increase the level of council tax to overcome the shortfall.

In anticipation of the move, Milton Keynes Council approved plans in December to increase the amount of council tax people are expected to pay.

Under the new system, households currently receiving up to 100 per cent Council Tax Benefit will see their maximum support capped at 80 per cent, adding, on average, an extra £14 per month to their council tax.

Some councils, such as Bristol, are not increasing the amount of council tax that people are due to pay, while Cornwall is set to increase its payments by 25 per cent.

Speaking in December, Lib Dem leader Councillor Douglas McCall said: “We felt that the poorest and most vulnerable in our society would be hit hardest by these changes,” he said.

“This is going to affect 13,000 homes, so it’s not a small number. This is huge.

“Some people simply don’t have the money to pay. They work hard, but face the dilemma of feeding and clothing their children or paying this extra council tax.”

Tom Borland wrote to the Citizen saying Milton Keynes should follow Bristol’s example.

He said: “Once again we are seeing a postcode lottery dependent on which part of the country you live in.

“The vast majority (of people who can’t pay) are genuine and honest citizens, some who are just down on their luck, in poor and distressed circumstances, struggling to survive.

“Let’s just hope MK Council will exercise caution, demonstrate common sense, and show some understanding and empathy and endeavour to follow the marvellous example of Bristol.”

Councillor Edith Bald, Cabinet Member for Finance said: “While clearly we expect residents to budget to make these payments, we have worked very hard to come up with a workable system to cover the shortfall. Although working age people who had to pay nothing will now be required to pay 20 per cent, pensioners will not have to pay any extra.”