POOR people have been punished by a controversial shake-up of council tax in Southampton, warn MPs.

The disabled, low-paid, carers and jobless have all been hit by new rules requiring them to pay 25 per cent of the levy, the powerful Public Accounts Committee (PAC) finds.

And the shake-up has failed to “make work pay”, as intended – backfiring by making it less financially rewarding to come off benefits.

Margaret Hodge, the PAC’s Labour chairman, said: “Local authorities were also tasked with protecting vulnerable people such as poorer families, despite the fact that savings had to be made.

“However, 133 local authorities offered no protection to vulnerable groups, other than pensioners and war pensioners.”

Among those 133 councils is Southampton, which scrapped council tax discounts of up to 100 per cent given to tens of thousands of working-age adults.

The PAC also highlighted how Southampton had hiked the ‘taper rate’ – at which discounts are withdrawn, when income rises – to 20 per cent.

That put it among 19 local authorities where there was now less incentive to look for work than before – despite ministers promising exactly the opposite.