Poorer people will be hit hardest by Council Tax Benefit reform, says north Kent council leader (From News Shopper)
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Poorer people will be hit hardest by Council Tax Benefit reform, says north Kent council leader
VULNERABLE people will hit hardest by reforms to Council Tax Benefit, a north Kent council leader has warned.
The benefit – received by around 9,000 households in Gravesham, 7,200 in Dartford and 2,000 in Swanley – will be axed by the Government on April 1 next year and councils will be forced to make up the shortfall.
Gravesham Council leader, Councillor John Burden, said it could be as unpopular as the infamous Poll Tax, which led to riots in 1990.
He said: “It is almost like we are going back to the Victorian workhouse scenario – severe poverty where people have no future and no way forward.”
Councils currently assess claims for council tax benefits and pay out the cash, which is reimbursed.
From next year, the Government is cutting funding by 10 per cent and telling councils to decide who gets how much.
To make things more difficult, the Government has said that pensioners – who make up around half of claimants – should not see a cut.
That means the remainder must bear more of a burden. That group comprises low earners, the unemployed, the poor and the disabled.
Cllr Burden said: “They are taking the money away from people we need to be helping. It is wrong.”
He added: “The cycle of poverty will get worse.
“If people think it will just be what they perceive to be benefit scroungers they are wrong – it will be their uncles, fathers, nephews and nieces.”
Both Gravesham and Sevenoaks councils are seeking opinions on the plans and are suggesting a blanket reduction for all claimants of around 18.5 per cent.
Under that scheme, a person living in an “average” house in Swanley and receiving Council Tax Benefit for the full value of their council tax (£1,503 a year) will get £1,225, leaving them to find £278 a year, or £5.35 a week.
Other benefits will not be affected and the reduction will be calculated in the same way as the current system.
Both Gravesham and Sevenoaks hope to make up some of the shortfall by reducing the exemption for vacant properties from six months to three.
Dartford Council has yet to publish its plans.
Cllr Burden said: “We hope people understand we have to make the best of a bad deal. We are trying to be as fair as we can to everybody.”
Sevenoaks Council leader, Councillor Peter Fleming said: “Although we don’t expect anybody that claims will be happy, at least it is fair.”
Gravesham Council’s consultation period ends on October 8, with Sevenoak’s ending on September 30. Both councils are seeking views from claimants and non-claimants. Go to Sevenoaks.gov.uk/ctaxsupport or Gravesham.gov.uk/ctconsultation.