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Weymouth and Portland councillors criticise changes to council tax benefit
COUNCILLORS in Weymouth and Portland have lambasted changes to council tax benefit which they say will hit the poor.
As part of the government’s shake-up to the welfare system, council tax benefit is being abolished and replaced in April by local support schemes administered by councils, with the government giving 10 per cent less funding than the current national system. Poorer households will be required to pay a contribution for the first time under the new rules which are designed as an incentive to get people back into work.
The government has directed councils to come up with their own council tax support schemes with their own eligibility criteria.
All of Dorset’s councils have been working together to come up with schemes which maintain support for the most vulnerable, including pensioners.
The draft schemes propose that most working-age residents who qualify for council tax support will be required to pay a minimum contribution.
Labour members were critical when the borough council’s management committee recommended a local scheme for adoption.
The committee voted through a scheme which sees ‘non vulnerable’ working age claimants paying up to an 8.5 per cent contribution which would be less costly to the council and allows the authority access to a one-off grant to help it pay for the scheme.
Labour councillor Kate Wheller is in favour of a scheme which helps those that need support but would end up costing the council more.
She said: “It concerns me that we’re asking people with nothing to find a fiver.
“If you have nothing, you have nothing. It doesn’t make sense that we’ll be spending money on pursuing people that don’t have the means to pay.”
Her Labour colleague Andy Blackwood agreed, criticising the new proposals as ‘shameful.’ He said councils were being made by the government to implement the changes which will ‘attack the most poor and vulnerable in our society’ and who the councils will have to chase up for money.
Coun Blackwood said: “If the government is trying to encourage people back into work surely it would be better off putting money into economic regeneration rather than cutting people’s benefits.”