Jobless may be forced to pay council tax bills
CORNWALL Council may force the unemployed to pay council tax.
Members of the Cornwall Anti-Cuts Alliance campaign group and Citizens' Advice Bureau (CAB) fear the move would drive people further into debt and even facing prison.
As a result of the Government devolving responsibility for council tax benefit to local authorities, Cornwall Council is consulting on its preferred option that recipients of working age pay at least 30 per cent of their council tax bill.
In Truro, for example, 30 per cent of a band D property charge would be £464, in Camborne £437 and in Perranzabuloe £433.
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Jim McKenzie, from CAB Cornwall, said 47 per cent of council tax benefit recipients were of working age.
He said: "If you get into arrears of two months you are at risk of the council seeking a liability order at a magistrates' court. If you then fail to pay they could send in the bailiffs.
"The issue is how they treat people who can't afford to pay and yet are expected to pay. By the end of 2013 we'll start to see real effects of this policy and an increase in bailiff action and people potentially threatened with prison unless it reviews its method of enforcement."
Chris Gibson, from Anti-Cuts Alliance, said: "I just don't know where the money is going to come from.
"If they wanted to make more money why don't they target those who can afford to pay a little more instead of hitting those struggling at the bottom?"
The council is seeking people's views on its proposals by November 12 for the new scheme to be introduced in January.
Also being considered is abolishing back-payments and calculating a claimant's support living in a band E, F, G or H property at band D, leaving them to pay the difference.
Councillor Steve Double, Cornwall Council Cabinet member for environment, waste management policy and shared services, said: "We appreciate this is unwelcome news. We have to find the fairest way to deal with the situation handed to us by the Government which will leave a £6 million black hole in the benefit budget.
"We want as many people as possible to give us their views on how we manage a situation which is not of this council's making."
For further information visit www.cornwall.gov.uk or call 0300 1234121.