Borough’s poorest face tax rise

THOUSANDS of the poorest people in the borough could be facing an increase in their council tax bills following the withdrawal of a government grant.

Under proposals from Scarborough Borough Council residents on low incomes or benefits may have to find up to 20 per cent of their bills next year.

From 2014/15 everyone of working age in the borough will have to pay a contribution towards their council tax bill.

In April the Government scrapped the Council Tax Benefit scheme and it was replaced in the borough with the Local Support Scheme, which saw people in receipt of benefits having to pay a contribution of up to 8.5 per cent to their bill.

The Government has now announced it will further cut back the money it gives to councils, meaning residents have to make up the shortfall.

The council is now consulting on whether the contribution will go up to 15 or 20 per cent.

Independent Woodlands councillor William Chatt said that the council was having its hand forced by central government.

Cllr Chatt said: “The Government is cutting the funding we receive as a council so they have forced this increase on us at a time when the poorest people in our society can least afford it.

“I really worry that it could drive people who are on benefits to loan sharks or high street money lenders and take food out of children’s mouths. “We as a council made the contribution last year as 8.5 per cent as we felt that was the lowest figure we could manage but now the money has gone down again and we have to find the money from somewhere and there is no secret stash or jam jar full of money so, unfortunately, it is the residents who can least afford it who are being targeted by the Government.

“Some people are not out of work due to choice but it seems that this government thinks that people on benefits are just scroungers if I am being honest.”

Due to a government directive pensioners are not affected under the new proposals.

Under the 8.5 per cent contribution a single parent with two children, who is also on Income Support has to pay £78.37 per year in Council Tax. Should that figure rise to 15 per cent then they would owe £138.30, if a 20 per cent figure is agreed then they would have to pay £184.40 - more than £106 more than this year.

A spokesman for Scarborough Council said the loss of the grant had caused the need for a change to the system.

He said: “Due to financial restraints the council is not able to cut other services to make up the shortfall, so proposes to reduce the amount of help we provide with council tax.”

Following the last consultation on council tax in 2012 76 per cent of the more than 350 people who responded thought that, in principle, all people who working age should have to contribute towards the council tax.

People have until Sunday, October 27 to give their views to the changes and which of the two increases they would like to see implemented.

To respond to the council tax consultation visit www.scarborough.gov.uk