Poorest families in Northampton will face council tax hike after authority votes to reduce support

A bid to cut the amount of council tax support to around 10,000 of Northampton's lowest owners by six per cent has been approved at the Guildhall despite claims it would drive those on a shoestring budget towards debt.

Tuesday, 31st January 2017, 9:00 am
Councillor Sally Beardsworth was one of several members to speak against the proposed tax hike at last night's Guildhall meeting.

Last night Northampton Borough Council voted through a policy to amend the authority's council tax reduction scheme and make with capital of less than £16,000 pay more on their bill.

Whereas the council's lowest earners currently pay 29 per cent of their tax, that will now rise to 35 per cent from April, in a move to save the council £252,000 a year.

Proposing the amnedment, cabinet member for finance, Councillor Brandon Eldred (Con, east Hunsbury) said: "It shouldn't be as painful as it has been in the past as people are getting back into work, receiving the living wage, not the minimum wage."

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He added: "We don't want to make the change, but we have too."

While he said the cut would equate to an average 12p rise per week for each working age person on the council tax reduction scheme, those in higher council tax bands will have to pay much more.

Councillor Eldred added that some council's, such as Labour-run Bury Council, only offer support to those with less than £6,000 in capital.

But Labour group leader on the borough, Councillor Danielle Stone, said the cut will have a cumulative effect on those already facing a benefits squeeze with the introduction of Universal Credit, the £20,000 benefits cap, the switch from the Disability Living Allowance to PIP and the bedroom tax.

She said: "People are going to be falling into more and more arrears.

"And we know that people in arrears cost us more money. It costs us in terms of bailiffs, in terms of court costs.

"What we should be doing is developing an anti-poverty strategy."

In response, deputy leader, Councillor Phil Larratt, (Con, East Hunsbury) said the cut will prevent £252,000 of savings having to be found elsewhere in "frontline services."

But Liberal Democrat leader, Councillor Sally Beardsworth said the cut in support goes against Theresa May's national policy to help those "just about managing."

She said: "There are other ways of raising this money, we shouldn't be hitting the people struggling the most."

Others weighed in on the debate too, with Councillor Lindsay Davenport (Lab, Delapre and Briar Hill) calling it a "bonkers" policy and Councillor Rufia Ashraf (Lab, St James) claiming it would affect those at "breaking point."

But the oppositon protests were not enough to muster support from the Conservative bench and the move was passed by majority vote.