SINGLE MOTHERS, the disabled and low income families are set to be among those hardest hit by Solihull Council’s proposed changes to council tax.
In a bid to save around £1 million a year, councilors have opened a consultation on plans to hike the council tax of low income households by 15 per cent, while others households have seen a rise of just one per cent over five years.
Under the council’s current rules, low income residents can receive a reduction of up to 100 per cent off their council tax bill, determined by factors including their income, savings and the size/income of the household.
The council’s own Council Tax Reduction Scheme documents, which examine the alternative options available to councillors, it recognises that the changes the council is proposing have a ‘disproportionate impact on low income working age households’ and ‘single parents (mainly female) and disabled households’.
If the new proposals come into effect, this means in real terms a couple with two children who earn a total weekly income of £400 from part-time work and benefits would be slapped with a £707.20 council tax bill each year, while a single person on £73 unemployment benefit would have to pay £522.08 in annual council tax.
Green Party councillor for Chelmsley Wood and leader of Solihull Council’s official opposition party, James Burn, has branded the plans as ‘unfair and illogical’ changes which ‘raid the back pockets of the most vulnerable’.
He said: “If the Conservatives enact this plan, it’ll mean they put the council tax of the most vulnerable up by the cost of 18 loaves of bread a month, but everyone else’s up by the cost of just one loaf of bread.
“Putting more pressure on the most vulnerable will only mean they have to use council and health services more, which will just cost tax-payers more in the long run.
“Raiding the back pockets of the most vulnerable cannot be a fair or sensible way to boost council coffers and I encourage everyone to reply to the consultation to tell the Council this plan is short-sighted and unfair and to ask them to think again.”
Historically, national council tax benefit regulations were managed by the Government.
However, in April 2013 this was abolished and Westminster handed over control of council tax support – also known as council tax reduction (CTR) – to local authorities.
Since then, Solihull is one of only 41 councils out of 326 nationally not to have introduced any significant changes to council tax by making savings in other areas.
However, Conservative borough councillors now argue that position is becoming ‘increasingly unsustainable’ – hence the consultation.
Councillor Robert Hulland, cabinet member for resources and delivering value, said: “In the three years since the scheme was introduced we have already made savings of nearly £30 million as a council and as Government funding is further reduced, we must look closely at all areas of spending.
“This consultation is your opportunity to tell us what you think and all the feedback we receive will be considered when it comes to making a decision later this year.”
The consultation question, which reads ‘Do you agree that working age people in Solihull who are liable to pay council tax should be asked to pay a minimum of 15 per cent towards their council tax?’, has already come under fire.
Coun Burn argues the question it not clear the proposal applies only to Solihull’s most vulnerable and residents who are least able to pay, nor that this rise of 15 per cent is against a backdrop of a rise of 1 per cent for those on a higher income.
He added: “There is clear evidence to show low income households are the biggest drain on public services, as poverty is linked to a number of problems including mental health and obesity.
“Solihull Council put £10 million into reserves last year, do we really need to be robbing Peter to pay Paul?”
The consultation is available now at: www.solihull.gov.uk/consultation and will last until Sunday, October 2.
A final decision will be made in December 2016.