'Low earners will suffer' as tax discounts are cancelled
Cornwall Council leaders have been accused of ignoring the wishes of members after passing recommendations to make all householders pay at least 25% in council tax including the poorest.
Yesterday, Cornwall's cabinet members voted unanimously in favour of bringing in a local council tax benefit scheme after the Government ceases running the national system on April 1.
Last week during a full council meeting at County Hall, Truro, members voted to knock back the proposal to pass on the Government cut to the 20,000 people of working age claiming the benefit, with members arguing the least well-off would suffer. Council officers then drew-up options where the £4.2 million needed to continue giving council tax discounts at current levels.
On Tuesday a list of services where cuts could be made to meet the cost was released, including libraries, the withdrawal of funding for tourism and rises in some social care services.
Yesterday, the rejected proposal came back to cabinet with an additional £130,000 to pay for the Citizen Advice Bureau to help residents who may struggle to pay the 25% and are in debt.
Following the vote, Alex Folkes, deputy leader of the Liberal Democrat group, said he believed cuts could have been made elsewhere to fund the local scheme.
He said: "I'm disappointed but not surprised with how the cabinet voted. Bearing in mind what happened last week they have ignored the will of the full council.
"Cuts have to be made – we know that.
"But there are other areas they should be looking at. "People on the lowest incomes will on average be faced with a council tax bill of £274 which is unacceptable."
Over the next four years the council has to make £170 million worth of savings after the Government announced a major squeeze on funding.
Before the vote yesterday, cabinet members took turns arguing why their particular department could not afford to take a further hit.
All said they were unhappy bringing in the minimum 25% levy, adding tough choices had to be made.
Lance Kennedy, portfolio holder for community safety, public protection and waste management, said: "I'm certainly not comfortable making these cuts but they are beyond our control.
"Central Government want it but we have to implement it."
Bert Biscoe, portfolio holder for transportation, highways and environment, said: "We are where we don't want to be. We are being drawn towards and inevitable conclusion."
The recommendation goes back to full council on January 29 for approval.