Conservatives condemn Harrow Borough Council's new Council Tax Support Scheme

The leader of Harrow Borough Council’s Conservative group says the authority's new Council Tax Support Scheme is balancing its books “on the backs of the poor and vulnerable”.

At a council meeting on Monday night Harrow Borough Council agreed the new Council Tax Support Scheme which will cost Council Tax Support claimants £3.8 million in the next year.

Councillor Susan Hall said: “The fact is that Labour have adopted this scheme because they’ve made poor choices over the last two and a half years.

“They’ve spent massively on IT, and have made bad decisions over things like agency worker and highway maintenance contracts, which has left them in a position where they have to pass a greater financial burden on to some of Harrow’s most vulnerable residents.

“Had they made wiser choices, they could have absorbed the cost of localisation as other councils in London have done – such as Conservative-run Wandsworth and Westminster.

“Instead, Labour are balancing the council’s books on the backs of the poor and vulnerable.”

She added: “Councillor Shah has blamed the government for Labour’s ‘cruel’ choice, because that’s what he always does.

“As a final point; for all Labour’s insistence that this scheme protects the vulnerable as much as possible, it’s worth noting that just hours before council voted on this scheme, Labour changed it.

“However, they didn’t change it to make it less severe or to protect our residents; they simply put in a get-out clause allowing them to change it conveniently in time for the local elections next year.

“This says all you need to know about how much faith Labour really have in what they voted for.”

The scheme, which will come into effect on April 1, is a response to the government’s cuts to Council Tax Support.

Under the new scheme everyone of working age will have to pay at least 22.5 per cent of their council tax bill.

People with disabilities, or with a dependant with a disability, will have to pay at least ten per cent of their council tax.

Those with more money coming in than the Government says they need to live on, will have their council tax benefit reduced. For every extra pound they receive their benefit will be cut by 30p.

Other adults living in a household where the council tax payer claims support will have to pay double the amount they currently pay towards council tax.

However, those who receive Employment and Support Allowance, Income Support, Income Based Job Seekers’ Allowance or Guaranteed Pension will continue to pay £3.30 a week.

The benefit will be stopped altogether for those who currently receive less than £2 Council Tax Support a week.

The scheme has been introduced because local authorities were asked by the government to develop their own support schemes. For Harrow this meant having to cut Council Tax Support by £3.8 million.

Harrow Council portfolio holder for finance, Councillor Sachin Shah, said: “We were determined to shield the borough’s most financially vulnerable residents from these changes that the government has forced us to make.

“I am extremely disappointed that the scheme was handed over to us by the Government with such a cruel reduction.

“However, we are where we are and we have limited the impact these government-imposed cuts will have upon our residents.”

Independent councillor, Husain Akhtar, who supported the Council Tax Support Scheme said: “Realistically, in view of the council’s low cash reserves and to protect services for most vulnerable, cuts in Council Tax Support are needed to fund the gap.”

To view the full Council Tax Support Scheme visit www.harrow.gov.uk/ctbchanges

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