AS THE consultation into Solihull council’s controversial council tax changes draws to a close, a London councillor has warned against the plans.
Camden councillor Sian Berry has warned Solihull ‘don’t make our mistake’ in implementing a 15 per cent hike in the council tax bills of the borough’s most vulnerable – including single mothers, the disabled and low income families.
Under Solihull 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.
But if the new proposals come into effect the maximum deduction available will be 85 per cent.
In real terms, this means 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.
Pensioners are protected from any proposed changes.
Ms Berry, who was the Green Party candidate in last year’s London mayoral election, said Camden Council had enforced a similar council tax reduction scheme in 2013, but has since been forced to ditch it after families found themselves in debt and the council’s use of bailiffs soared.
She said: “I opposed charging Camden’s most vulnerable council tax when it was announced three years ago.
“I said that not only was this unfair, but that it would put too great a burden on people not able to shoulder it.
“I was astounded to hear Solihull Council are planning to introduce the same charges we’ve just decided to drop.
“I really urge them to think again – don’t make our mistake.”
Solihull Green Party councillor for Shirley South, Max McLoughlan, travelled to London to meet with Ms Berry to learn more echoed her calls – branding the hike ‘illogical’ and warning pay-day loan companies could benefit from the plight of desperate Silhillians.
But Coun Robert Hulland, cabinet member for resources and delivering value, has hit back at at the Green Party’s concerns.
He said: “The situation we are in – with fewer grants and subsidies from central government – means we will have to cut back on other services if the council tax cut proposals do not go ahead.
“We are one of just 41 councils out of 326 nationally – and the only metropolitan one – not to have introduced any significant changes to council tax since the Government changed the way council tax support works.
“Since then we have made savings in other areas, but this it no longer affordable.
“We recognise that the changes will have an impact on lower income families, but that is why we have proposed to set up a £50,000 support fund for people in need.
“We will also increase the support we can offer people – supporting them back into work and helping with budgeting and providing debt advice.
“Although Camden may have reconsidered its plans, 285 councils have not.”
Earlier this year, the council was forced to relaunch its consultation into the proposals after a lawyer, acting on behalf of a resident face a council tax rise of more than £100 a year, branded it ‘unlawful’ – forcing the council to provide more information and extend the consultation deadline from October 2 until Monday, October 31.
The Council Tax Reduction Scheme will be discussed next Tuesday (November 1) by the council’s resources and delivering value scrutiny board, before a vote at full council on December 6.
Any changes to the scheme will take effect from April 2017.