Low income Stevenage residents face council tax hit

DISABLED residents and those on low incomes will have to pay council tax before being eligible for benefits, if a scheme proposed by Stevenage Borough Council goes ahead.

Executive members have agreed a plan following a 10 per cent reduction in Government funding which, if backed by full council, will see all council tax support claimants – barring pensioners – pay the first 8.5 per cent of the annual bill before receiving benefits.

On a band C property, that would mean paying �109.95, which is �2.11 per week or, with the 25 per cent single person discount, �1.59 per week.

The proposal also includes measures to abolish council tax exemption for second homes and reduce the exemption for empty properties, in a bid to meet a �735,000 shortfall following Government funding cuts.

More than 1,000 Stevenage residents responded to a survey used to help formulate the plans, which come as individual local authorities have to devise their own council tax support schemes to replace a national framework under the Government.

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Councillor Sharon Taylor, leader of the borough council, said: “I speak on behalf of Stevenage Borough Council’s executive members when I say that we deplore the actions of the Government in reducing council tax support to the most vulnerable members of our community. We have made it clear that we have serious concerns about the impact of this on many Stevenage people.

“We don’t, however, have a choice, and so we have worked hard to develop a scheme that we hope will minimise the effect on as many people as possible. With our proposal we hope to reduce the financial impact on low-income households by removing and reducing the discounts and exemptions on those with empty or second homes.

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“I would like to thank everyone who took the time to share their views on this issue.”

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