Controversial measures to make the poorest people in Northampton give more council tax to the borough council have been given the go-ahead.
Although Northampton Borough Council has proposed to freeze its share of council tax in the 2016/17 financial year, those receiving tax relief will find themselves paying more from April.
A move to reduce support to low earners and certain benefits claimants on the Council Tax Reduction Scheme was ratified during Monday night’s full council meeting.
Where the least well-off currently pay 21 per cent of the full amount, that is now set to rise to 29 per cent from April.
A backlash from opposition members failed to topple the Tory policy despite a lengthy debate on the issue at the Guildhall on Monday.
Councillor Julie Davenport (Lab. Delapre & Briar Hill) said: “Two of the people I spoke to about this issue in my ward this week said they don’t know what they are going to do now - they just want to end it all.”
And on the fact that the council tax rate will remain the same for the majority of people in Northampton, she said: “I cannot understand why people earning so much money are not having an increase, but the people that are suffering the most are having an increase.”
Labour leader Councillor Danielle Stone (Lab, Castle) said: “We are proposing to put council tax up by eight per cent for the most vulnerable people in this town.
“A huge number of people that are going to be having to pay that extra tax might be working on zero hours contracts that peter out.
“This policy makes us look mean and it makes us look as if we don’t understand the reality facing the poorest in our town.”
There are currently 10,425 people on the Council Tax Reduction Scheme who will be affected by the new measures.
Pensioners will not be affected by the rise, nor will those claiming a War Widows Pension or War Disablement Pension.
The change is expected to raise an extra £50,000 in council tax earnings for the borough council.
Only 42 people filled out an online survey on the plans, to which the council claims only 11 people said the proposed rise would cause “additional hardship”.
One consultee suggested that a separate council tax band could be created for those living in houses with more than £250,000 to make extra revenue.
But Cabinet member for finance, Councillor Mike Hallam (Con, Parklands), responded by saying the moves were fair and said the Tory administration had carried out a lot of work in Northampton to “help people get work”.
“The number one way to help people is to keep going with that investment, to keep funding the enterprise zone and to keep attracting the big companies into town,” he said.