CAMPAIGNERS fighting proposals that could see some of the most vulnerable people in the Andover area lumbered with annual tax demands of more than £100 in April have won the first round in their battle.
Test Valley Borough Council's overview and scrutiny committee has voted to support protecting the most vulnerable from the imposition of new council tax charges – but it is up to the Cabinet to make the final decision later this month.
There were fears that changes designed to ensure that all those aged under 65 pay something towards their council tax would have a particularly bad impact on Enham, where large numbers of vulnerable people on very low incomes would have faced charges for the first time.
But now a recommendation from Alamein ward councillor Phil North to protect the most vulnerable from council tax benefit chnages was supported unanimously by council back-benchers.
After the meeting, Cllr North said: “I am delighted that the scrutiny committee agreed with the proposal and I hope the Cabinet will make the necessary changes.
“I agree with that sentiment that everyone of working age should contribute at least ten per cent of their council tax liability as work must pay.
“However I was uncomfortable in voting for proposals that would have seen disabled people who can’t work having to pay an extra £100-plus per year. Those who cannot work should be treated as an exception.”
If Test Valley’s Cabinet backs the proposal it would mean that those disabled residents not capable of work and entitled to Employment and Support Allowance, Incapacity Benefit, Income Support (with a disability premium) or Disability Living Allowance will be protected from the changes.
Mark Deal, Enham’s director of development, research and policy, said: “Enham is delighted by this pragmatic, thoughtful and caring approach by the council which recognises the need for reform, but protects the most vulnerable, even in these most difficult times.”
As part of the Government’s wider package of welfare reforms every council has had to come up with its own localised council tax benefit scheme but the funding has been reduced by 12 per cent.
In Wiltshire – where cuts of 20 per cent in council tax benefit are planned – the issue has already caused a split in Conservative ranks.
Tidworth’s Conservative councillor Mark Connolly, said: “I voted against the Conservative administration as this will affect a lot of people in Tidworth.”