Council tax changes in Rother ‘will hit most vulnerable’

Bexhill Town Hall SUS-150207-140256001
Bexhill Town Hall SUS-150207-140256001

Thousands of residents on low incomes in Rother may end up having to pay a minimum of 20 per cent towards their council tax bill.

A proposal was discussed by Rother District Council’s (RDC) overview and scrutiny committee yesterday evening (Monday, October 19), which councillors recommended the changes be introduced.

The plans will now come before the authority’s cabinet and full council at a later date.

It will mean almost 3,500 hard-up residents across Rother, who receive council tax benefit, will have to pay something towards their bill.

The changes are being proposed as part of a cost-cutting measure and because of a reduction in funding from central government.

Malcolm Johnston, RDC’s executive director of resources, said changes introduced by the Local Government Finance Act 2012 abolished Council Tax Benefit (CTB), leaving local authorities across the county to devise and administer their own Council Tax Reduction Scheme (CTRS) within reduced funding of 90 per cent of CTB expenditure.

He said local authorities across East Sussex will continue to face reductions in their income over the next four years, so will have to make savings in their budgets.

In June, councillors on RDC’s cabinet agreed a consultation be set up to gauge residents’ opinions on proposed changes to the CTRS.

It ran for nine weeks from July to September.

Last night, some councillors were unhappy with the proposals, saying they would hit the most vulnerable hard.

Councillor Kathryn Field said: “Paying a minimum of 20 per cent is a lot. Having to pay around £20 a month is an enormous amount for some of the most vulnerable people. We are heading for a situation where we are asking vulnerable residents to pay more than they can afford. This is a very short-sighted position and we should be caring for our vulnerable residents.”

Councillor Sue Prochak said: “When you read some of the comments by some residents who do not want this, it really brings it home to you that many would not be able to pay 10 per cent, let alone 20 per cent. This is not practical and I think we will find ourselves in a position where we will be writing off a lot of unpaid council tax.”

But council leader, Carl Maynard, said: “We know quite clearly from the Chancellor’s statement that the government is committed to seeing the most vulnerable being least affected. The government has also committed itself to the Living Wage and over the next two to three years we will see this come to fruition.”

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