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Low income families face council tax increase after government cuts
THOUSANDS of Darlington’s poorest residents face an increase in the amount they pay in council tax after changes to the benefits system.
From April, there will be a 20 per cent cut in the amount of council tax benefit paid to people on low incomes, which means an average £160 a year will be added to the council tax bill of about 6,900 people in Darlington.
Pensioners are not affected by the change and will continue to receive the same amount of council tax benefit.
The blow to hundreds of families comes after the Government handed responsibility for the existing council tax benefits system to local authorities, but reduced the amount of money available to cover the payouts by 12 per cent.
The new scheme has been attacked by councillors, who claim the government is targeting the people least able to bear more financial hardship.
In Darlington, members of the borough council’s cabinet agreed this week to go ahead with a proposal to pass on part of the funding shortfall to residents, after the council admitted it could not afford the full £1,140,000 bill.
Councillor Stephen Harker, deputy leader of the council, said: “It’s wrong the way that this scheme has been implemented. The Government is trying to pass the blame for this on to local authorities but we are not in a position to take on the whole burden when we’ve already made £24m worth of cuts.
“The Government like to say that we are all in this together but this is a classic example of where we are not. We are having to pass on cuts to those who are at the less well off end of the spectrum.”
Councillor Heather Scott, leader of the Conservative group, said: “I think it is unfair. None of us came into politics to reduce support to people. Unfortunately we have no choice but to go ahead with this.”
Councillor Chris McEwan, cabinet member for economy and regeneration, said: “No-one could dispute the fact that we need to do something, but we in the Labour group believe that to reward the rich with tax cuts and cut benefits and income to the poor is despicable and disgraceful.”