Benefits claimants in Hertsmere facing council tax increase under latest reforms

Around 3,000 people on low incomes in Hertsmere may soon have to start paying more because of cuts to government funding.

The current means-tested system is being scrapped by the coalition and control over who should receive the subsidies is being handed over to the local authorities.

The budget is also being cut by ten per cent, leaving local authorities to deal with the shortfall.

Only funding for pensioners, disabled people and parents with children under five will be protected by the new propositions, which come into effect in April 2013.

The reduction means that Hertsmere Borough Council is facing an estimated funding deficit of around £827,000 over the next year.

As a result, those currently claiming council tax benefit may have to contribute up to 20 per cent of their council tax bill.

Hertsmere Borough Council, in consultation with Hertfordshire County Council, has drawn up proposals to work within the limited grant.

Currently, a person can get 100 per cent of council tax benefit regardless of the size of their house.

But under the new proposals, support would be capped at Band D level - properties valued at £68,000 to £88,000 in 1991.

Discounts and exemptions on second and empty homes are also being considered, and working adults living in a household where council tax support is claimed may have to contribute more towards the bill.

Councillor Ann Harrison, leader of the Labour group in Hertsmere, accused the government of “hitting people already suffering.”

She said: “It is just appalling – I think the whole thing is very unfair.

“It is pushing tax increase on people who are already very poor, who in turn may not be able to afford things like food or to pay other bills.

“If the government feel certain people claiming benefits are fooling the system they should be tackling that.

“Instead they are taking a random snipe at the less well off in the community by introducing a blanket cut of ten per cent.

“Even if people were to reply to the consultation saying they disagree with the borough’s propositions, there is no time for them to make any changes.”

Councillor Morris Bright, leader of Hertsmere Borough Council, said the council are in a “very difficult position” and are trying to inconvenience as little people as possible.

He said: “Every local authority across the country is in a very difficult position. In Hertsmere, we have already had to cut 28 per cent out of the budget in two years.

“The government told us we cannot touch pensioners, but we want to protect families with children under five and those with a disability.

“The whole country is going through this – we have to be realistic without losing our humanity. 

“As a responsible local authority we decided a consultation was the best way forward, because it is important people losing some benefit have their say.” 

A public consultation, run by Hertsmere Borough Council in conjunction with the Citizens Advice Bureau and Community Action Hertsmere, will run until October 15.

To give your views, fill in a form here or visit the civic offices in Elstree Way.

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