Slash to grant ‘like poll tax’

Extent: Ken Hudson
Extent: Ken Hudson
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Government cuts to council tax benefits have been branded the “new poll tax” by angry Preston leaders.

Thousands of low-income city residents will be affected by the abolition of the national council tax benefit and a 10 per cent reduction in Government cash for a replacement scheme, to be administered by local councils from April 1.

Pensioners will be protected from the benefits deduction, but 9,144 claimants of working age will be affected in Preston, along with thousands more in other boroughs across Lancashire.

Council officers said a low-income couple living in a Band A property in Preston who receive £3.53 a week under the current scheme will see that cut to £2.83 under the new Local Council Tax Support plans.

An unemployed couple who currently pay no council tax will have to contribute £4.03 a week, while a single person will pay £3.03 a week.

Councillors have condemned the impact the new scheme will have on people already struggling to make ends meet.

They voted to adopt a version of the scheme favoured in a public consultation last year, branded the “least worst” option at a full council meeting last night.

Conservative group leader Coun Ken Hudson said he could not “defend the indefensible” cut to the funding by his party at national level.

He said: “Every time there is a hard pill to swallow they will give us (councils) more power to deal with it.

“The Tory and Liberal Democrat coalition have put us in a position where they want to screw local councils to the extent that we die.”

Labour’s cabinet member for finance, Coun Martyn Rawlinson, branded the scheme “the Government’s new policy on poll tax.”

He said: “The coalition seem hell-bent on making poor people pay for the money lenders’ mistakes.”

Cadley Coun John Potter, finance spokesman for the Liberal Democrat group, added: “It is a regressive and stupid step by the Government.”