‘Unethical ‘ council tax proposal prompts meeting

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Residents in Rother have raised fears over district council proposals to make people on lower incomes pay towards their council tax.

Rother District Council has opened a public consultation asking whether working-age residents who currently qualify for the council tax reduction scheme should pay either 10, 15 or 20 per cent to try and raise funds for the authority.

Alternatively, the council could have an assumed minimum income for self-employed residents and use that to determine how much they should pay.

In addition to these choices, the public is asked if they would rather have the council increase the amount of tax everyone pays, reduce funding to other services or use the authority’s reserves.

A public meeting was held at Parkhurst Hall in Bexhill on Friday (September 4) to encourage people to vote in favour of raising council tax as organisers believe making those on the lowest incomes pay more is not right.

Organiser Roger McCarthy wants to raise awareness of the consultation as it closes on September 18.

“I suggest the 4,000 people who would be affected by this do not know about it so I urge people to fill in the questionnaire,” he said,

Currently, residents on low incomes can apply for Council Tax Benefit which can pay up to 100 per cent of the bill.

But to raise funds after central government cuts, Rother suggests a minimum amount of tax.

Mr McCarthy believes it would be better to increase the overall council tax by 1.99 per cent which would not be as burdening as a 20 per cent bill for the poorest people.

Former Labour candidate for Bexhill Central Paul Courtel said: “I find it extremely disappointing and distasteful that the most financially disadvantaged in our town are likely to have life made much harder for them.

“In essence, according to documents published by Rother, there appears to be a choice between asking about eight per cent of the population on the lowest incomes to find up to £4.40 per week, or increasing the council tax for the more fortunate by an average of one pound per week.

“I think that burdening those on the lowest income with this extra cost would be unethical.”

Cllr Maurice Watson defended the council by saying it was not so simple to raise council tax and believed those on the lowest incomes could afford it.

To fill in the questionnaire visit: www.surveyserver.net/?CTRSconsult.

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