Postcode lottery for residents hit by council tax changes

First published in News

CHANGES to the benefits system being introduced this weekend as part of Government funding cuts are to have drastically varying impacts on benefit claimants living just a few miles apart in the Andover area.

Unemployed people living in band D homes in Ludgershall and Tidworth, who currently have their council tax bills met in full will in future have to pay 20 per cent of the bill, which is about £300.

However claimants in Test Valley and Basingstoke and Deane areas, will continue to pay no council tax in the next financial year.

Both these Hampshire borough councils have been able to fund the cost of the Government’s 12 per cent funding reduction, partly by extending the scope of council tax to more properties such as second and empty homes.

Tidworth councillor Mark Connolly said: “I voted against the changes to council tax benefits, as I felt that 20 per cent was too much to ask of unemployed and low paid people.

“I agree with the principle that people should pay something towards the cost of council tax and would have preferred the ten per cent option.”

A Wiltshire Council spokesman said: “Of all local authorities we have had one of the largest reductions in central government funding for our new council tax reduction scheme.

“In order to protect frontline services, we have had to make some difficult choices about who gets help and how much.

“We consulted with Wiltshire residents about our proposals and 73 per cent of those who responded believed that people of working age should contribute 20 per cent toward their council tax.

“We believe we have been as fair as possible and have looked carefully at the potential impact on everyone this change applies to.

“If anyone has concerns or queries they can contact us on 0300 456 0110.”

In a statement, Test Valley explained its position. A spokesman said: “The council agreed not to make any changes to council tax benefit for the financial year 2013/14, in order to protect those on the lowest incomes.

“The scheme will be reviewed during the course of the year before a decision is taken on plans for future years.”

Like the controversial “bedroom tax” the new regulations, stemming from the Welfare Reform Act, will not affect those of pensionable age or those considered “vulnerable”.

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