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Council to cut benefits despite pleas to defer
*This story was updated at 2pm on December 18.
COUNCIL chiefs rubber-stamped proposals to slash benefits on Monday – despite pleas to defer the plan for a year.
Residents of working age who currently claim council tax support will lose out by an average of £300 a year under Wycombe District Council’s proposed new system, which comes in to play in April.
It will hit between 4,000-4,500 people in the district but pensioners and disabled residents will be protected from the changes.
The authority has been forced to come up with a new service after the existing one was scrapped by the Government - leaving a funding shortfall of roughly £1m.
Liberal Democrat members urged the ruling Conservatives at Full Council to opt for an 8.5 per cent reduction, instead of the now ratified 20 per cent cut, and dip into the authority’s estimated £2.5m reserves to cover the costs for a year to give claimants more time to prepare and adjust for the changes.
Cllr Brian Pollock, who proposed the alternative option, said: “It would show residents that while we recognise we have no alternative [but to make cuts] it would give them an opportunity to get their finances in order.”
Wycombe Labour leader Cllr Victoria Groulef wanted to scrutinise Cllr Pollock’s suggestion before she could back it, so urged the Tories to defer.
But that proposals were rejected by the Tories who said, while it was a tough decision to make, it was the best option on the table which had been backed by residents during a recent public consultation.
WDC Leader Cllr Alex Collingwood said: “We are trying to help residents across the whole of the district, this is the best way forward, residents have said it’s the best way forward, and we can review it [at a later date].”
The other option was to raise council tax - which would have worked out at about £13 extra per Band D property - but this will remain frozen.