Re­view over lower rates for poor­est in bor­ough

Kentish Express Ashford & District - - News -

Hard-up res­i­dents could pay more in coun­cil tax as part of a re­view of sup­port for the poorer house­holds.

Coun­cil­lors dis­cussed a re­port into the Coun­cil Tax Sup­port Scheme, which re­placed the old ben­e­fit-style pay­ment with a tax dis­count in April 2013.

But au­thor­i­ties across Kent have re­viewed the pol­icy be­cause of cuts to lo­cal govern­ment by Chan­cel­lor Ge­orge Osborne.

At present, coun­cil tax pay­ers fac­ing fi­nan­cial trou­ble can ap­ply for a 90% dis­count but coun­cil chiefs have pro­posed to cut this to 80%.

The pro­posal would al­low the coun­cil to keep rates at the low­est in the county for Ash­ford and stop any need to hike park­ing charges, li­censes and burial costs.

In a re­port pre­sented to the coun­cil’s cab­i­net mem­bers ear­lier this month, the coun­cil’s head of fi­nance, Ben Lock­wood, pro­posed new changes to the sys­tem.

Mr Lock­wood sug­gested the pol­icy for 2017 could ask tax pay­ers to pay up to 20% of their bill, forc­ing peo­ple fork out an­other £150 per year on av­er­age for a band D prop­erty.

Those liv­ing in more ex­pen­sive houses, in bands E, F, G and H, would only be en­ti­tled to the same de­gree of sup­port as those in the av­er­age band D.

The scheme is cur­rently pro­vided to those who have up to £16,000 in sav­ings, but that fig­ure could be slashed to £6,000.

It could hit those who are self­em­ployed but who are not work­ing long hours, be­cause the re­vised pol­icy would as­sume that all work­ers are re­ceiv­ing the equiv­a­lent of the Na­tional Liv­ing Wage for 35 hours or for 16 hours if they are part-time.

The scheme could also see house­holds hav­ing to pay up to £10 a week for ev­ery adult son or daugh­ter still liv­ing at home, equiv­a­lent to £520 per year.

The scheme does not in­clude pen­sion­ers, while those who are dis­abled will con­tinue to be sup­ported.

As part of the means test­ing, pay­ments such as child ben­e­fits and child main­te­nance will not be in­cluded in the tests, and a fur­ther hard­ship fund will be cre­ated for those fac­ing the great­est need.

Vic­to­ria ward Cllr Jill Britcher said the Labour group on the coun­cil will scru­ti­nise the plans to as­sess the im­pact on the poor­est house­holds in the bor­ough.

Cllr Neil Shorter (Con), the cab­i­net member re­spon­si­ble for fi­nance, said the ob­jec­tive was to en­cour­age peo­ple back into work.

He said: “This makes sure that ev­ery­one who ben­e­fits from the coun­cil’s ser­vices con­trib­utes to them to some de­gree.”

A con­sul­ta­tion into the pro­posed changes is set to be­gin on Mon­day.

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