A SCHEME to replace Council Tax Benefit was agreed last night, despite calls for it to be made more generous.

Members of Chiltern District Council last night rubber stamped the introduction of the new Council Tax Reduction Scheme, which gives tax breaks to residents on low incomes.

Those eligible for the scheme will be given an 80 per cent reduction in the amount of tax they pay while residents classed as vulnerable will be given a 90 per cent reduction.

But opposition members called for the reduction to be 95 per cent instead, saying the lower band would adversely impact residents.

Cllr Alan Bacon said: "I think this scheme is bound to cause hardship, I don't think there's any doubt about that. It's going to hit a number of people very hard.

"The people who are going to be hit by this is the working poor. They are being singled out for special treatment and it doesn't look good."

Cllr Seb Berry added: "It's extremely disappointing the only justification from cabinet for pushing on the 90 per cent is everyone has to pay something and any increase in the reduction would leave the council having to collect small amounts of money from vulnerable households. This can't be justified on cost saving grounds.

"We haven't heard a justification for the policy to convince me there's a pressing need to stick with the 90 per cent."

Councillors have also agreed to set aside a discretionary fund of £50,000 - increased from a proposed £30,000 - to help the most needy.

Lib Dem leader Peter Jones said: "I don't want people to come cap in hand to say, 'Can I have some of the discretionary fund?' I want them to have a bill they can afford to pay. If we go to 95 per cent it will reduce the number of people coming cap in hand."

The scheme has been introduced to plug a £436,000 funding gap in council coffers after the authority was left with less money in government grants following the abolition of Council Tax Benefits.

Changes have been made to the way how residents' income is assessed, with other allowances such as child maintanance now being included in calculations. People with savings of more than £16,000 will be ineligible for the scheme.

Residents eligible for the 90 per cent reduction are 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.