Staffordshire Moorlands council tax changes 'only affect the poor'
MORE than 3,000 people in the Staffordshire Moorlands will soon be hit by changes to benefits.
Staffordshire Moorlands District Council last night approved the authority's new council tax support scheme, which will replace council tax benefit from April.
Claimants will receive a maximum of 91.5 per cent support under the new system, when previously they may have paid no council tax at all.
The second adult rebate will be abolished, while other council tax discounts and exemptions will be changed or removed.
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All local authorities have been asked to devise their own council tax support schemes by the Government, but will only receive 90 per cent of the funding for it.
In SMDC's case this will mean a £565,000 shortfall, and council leaders have decided that there will be no increase in council tax to breach the gap.
As pensioners will be exempt from any changes, this means the burden of making up the difference will fall on the district's 3,100 working age claimants.
Councillor Gill Heath, cabinet members for finance and resources, said the new system would be fairer for everyone.
She said: "Over the years benefits have increased with inflation, but ordinary working people haven't seen their salaries increase in the same way, and so they have been struggling over the last few years.
"There is only so much money available, and we have all got to be responding to this together.
"I don't think it is fair to ask people who already pay all their own council tax to pay even more for the council tax support scheme.
"As things won't change for pensioners, the burden has to fall on working age people."
Moorlands Democratic Alliance Councillor Ron Locker accepted that the Conservative and Independent-run authority had no choice but to introduce the changes.
But he condemned the Government for forcing local authorities to increase the burden for poorer people.
He said: "I know with all the constraints that the district council is under, this is something they've got to do. The Government has told councils to set up these new schemes, and they have no choice but to do that.
"But the great concern of myself and others is that it will be the most vulnerable people who will suffer.
"I bet David Cameron wishes he'd never said that 'we're all in this together'. It always seems to be the poor and vulnerable who are paying more, while richer people are unaffected."
The new scheme will see removal of the current 10 per cent council tax discount on second homes.
Empty properties will receive a 100 per cent council tax discount for three months, after which the full charge will apply.
A 150 per cent council tax rate will apply where homes are left empty for two years or more.