Review over lower rates for poorest in borough
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.