2:30pm Wednesday 18th December 2013
By Andy Carswell
A SCHEME to replace Council Tax Benefit will make poor people even poorer, a councillor has warned.
Members of Chiltern District Council's cabinet agreed yesterday to introduce their new Council Tax Reduction Scheme, with those eligible being given a cut of either 80 or 90 per cent in the amount of tax they pay the authority.
It has been introduced in place of the now scrapped Council Tax Benefit. Although councils have been provided with some funding from central government it is ten per cent lower than they were provided with under the previous scheme, and authorities are expected to make up the shortfall.
All residents of working age in the Chiltern district are expected to pay in to plug the £436,000 gap - but the plans have been opposed by Liberal Democrat councillors.
Cllr Alan Bacon spoke out against the proposals during the meeting, telling Conservative cabinet members: "This is a scheme that will make the poor poorer."
Cllr Bacon told the Bucks Free Press after the meeting: "The principle that Chiltern seem to have adopted is everyone of working age should pay something - that includes people who in the past haven't had to pay anything because they have been receiving full or partial council tax benefit.
"It's going to be very hard on people - not just those who aren't working but the working poor, who are on minimum wage. If you are really short of money, it's going to hit you hard."
He added the funding shortfall could have been plugged with a recent increase in taxation levels on empty and second homes in the district.
Cllr Bacon said: "Chiltern could have covered the whole lot from that. They should have looked at using some of the money from that to cushion the effect on poor people."
The proposals were rubber stamped by the cabinet this week following a lengthy consultation with residents.
Cllr Mike Stannard said: "We've tried to come up with a scheme where, and I hate to use this phrase, everybody pays a little. We want every single person to be making some contribution to the services this council provides."
Those eligible for the new Council Tax Reduction Scheme will be given an 80 per cent reduction in the amount they will need to pay.
Residents classified as vulnerable - those who have a disability, care for someone with a disability, has responsibility for a child who is disabled, or is a lone parent with a child under the age of five - will be given a 90 per cent reduction.
Cllr Peter Hudson said Chiltern's scheme provides greater savings for a wider range of people than the equivalent in the neighbouring South Bucks District Council area.
Cllr Isobel Darby said: "This is a piece of work we should be proud of. It was a true consultation and we got a superb response. People were coming back in agreement with what we proposed."
Plans for a hardship scheme, to provide a pool of spare cash for residents should it be needed, will be reconsidered however.
A figure of £30,000 had previously been mooted but cabinet members agreed this sum was too low and more needs to be invested into the scheme.
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